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Unisa Press

Defiant images: Photography and Apartheid South Africa

Defiant images: Photography and Apartheid South Africa


Darren Newbury





Number of pages:

365pp softcover


South Africa: R260 incl VAT) | Africa: R294 (airmail incl) | USD: 41| GBP: 29| Euro: 33


Laetitia Theart:

About the book

‘This book is much more than just a discourse on photography in the land of apartheid. And it goes well beyond sophisticated debate on the artistic merits of images. While keeping the lens trained on the evolution of photography it plunges the reader into a sharp and evocative sociocultural history of a country in deep conflict.’ – Albie Sachs

Photography is often believed to ‘witness’ history or ‘reflect’ society, but such perspectives fail to account for the complex ways in which photographs are made and seen, and the variety of motivations and social and political factors that shape the vision of the world that photographs provide. This book develops a critical historical method for engaging with photographs of South Africa during the Apartheid period.

The author looks closely at the photographs in their original contexts and their relationship to the politics of the time, listens to the voices of the photographers to try and understand how they viewed the work they were doing, and examines the place of photography in a post-Apartheid era.

The African Drum, June 1951.
Figure 2.9 Page 104
The African Drum, June 1951.
© Bailey’s African History Arch
Figure 3.6 Page123
African National Congress conference, Batho, Bloemfontein, December 1951.
Photograph by Jürgen Schadeberg. © Bailey’s African History Archives
Figure 3.14 Page 136
Newspaper vendor, 26 June 1955, the day after the signing of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown, Johannesburg.
© Bailey’s African History Archives
Figure 5.16 Page 237
Nelson Mandela burning his pass, 1960.
Photograph by Eli Weinberg. EW14-4-1. UWC
Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives
Figure 6.14 Page 295
Hector Pieterson, Mbuyisa Makhubu and Antoinette Sithole.

Photograph by Sam Nzima


Foreword vii
Acknowledgements  xi
List of figures xv
Introduction 1

1 An African Pageant: Between Native Studies and Social Documentary 15
2 ‘A Fine Thing’: The African Drum 81
3 ‘Johannesburg Lunch-hour’: Photographic Humanism and the Social Vision of Drum  113
4 An ‘Unalterable Blackness’: Ernest Cole’s House of Bondage 173
5 An Aesthetic of Fists and Flags: Struggle Photography  219
6 ‘Lest We Forget’: Photography and the Presentation of History in the Post-apartheid Museum 271

Epilogue 317
Select Bibliography  323
Index  332