David Goldblatt
photographs from South Africa
by Susan Kismaric, Curator
Department of Photography
Audio Narration
by David Goldblatt
(requires Shockwave)
David Goldblatt: Photographs from South Africa
July 16 - October 6  1998
    "David Goldblatt's work is about buildings and structures in the South African landscape. It is, in part, about actual structures--bricks, mortar, mud, and corrugated iron. But it is also about ideological structuring: about the mental constructs that underpinned the structures of South Africa in its colonial era and more specifically, the apartheid years, the locust years, of its recent past. What Goldblatt has done is to frame these physical structures in terms of photographic constructs which, cumulatively and compellingly, reveal the many ways in which ideology has shaped our landscape."

--Neville Dubow, "Contructs: Reflections on a Thinking Eye" in South Africa :The Structure of Things Then by David Goldblatt. Published in South Africa by Oxford University Press, 1998, and in the United States by Monacelli Press, 1998.

For most people outside of South Africa, any understanding of apartheid and its history has been largely determined by accounts in newspapers, magazines, and on television. These accounts tended to focus on the journalistic and dramatic, revealing little about the system's origins, complexities, or nuances.

baasskap: Afrikaans for master ship, or White domination.
  David Goldblatt was drawn "to the quiet and commonplace, where nothing 'happened', and yet all was contained and immanent..." His photographs of the architecture of South Africa's diverse and complexly related peoples have grown from this preoccupation. Taken between 1964 and 1993, his nominal subjects--homes, public housing, architectural ornamentation, government buildings, resettlement communities, Dutch Reformed churches, and monuments--are seen as a lingering expression of South Africa's morality and ethos. David Goldblatt calls the period from 1652 to 1990 the Era of Baasskap, or White domination in South Africa, when Whites gradually settled the country, dispossessed the Blacks of their land and subjected them to White rule by a long process of economic, social, and political disempowerment. Precise in description, Goldblatt's photographs are also acute in historical and political perception. They provide a sense of the texture of daily life, and an important piece of missing information regarding life under apartheid in South Africa.

    The six images seen in this Web site, and their accompanying captions, are drawn from David Goldblatt's newly-published book, South Africa: The Structure of Things Then. Some fifty photographs from the book may be seen in the exhibition .

--Susan Kismaric, Curator, Department of Photography


David Goldblatt
  David Goldblatt was born in 1930 in Randfontein, South Africa, the son of Lithuanian-Jewish parents who had fled Europe with their parents in the 1890s. He became interested in photography in high school, but found little opportunity in his chosen field of magazine photography. Discouraged, he joined the family's menswear business and began work part-time on a university degree. Following his father's death in 1962, he sold the clothing concern and began working full-time as a photographer.

Goldblatt's photographs are in the collections of the South African National Gallery, Cape Town; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. He has published several books of his work.

This exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Contemporary Exhibition Fund of The Museum of Modern Art, established with gifts from Lily Auchincloss, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, and Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.

©1998 The Museum of Modern Art, New York