Today I spent almost my entire work day in the library, finding books on photographers who are a part of the collection at the South African National Gallery. Just the day before my supervisor, Ingrid, and I had been cataloging the images by David Goldblatt that the Gallery had accessioned. I didn’t really know anything about Goldblatt, but the library had tons of books about him. I spent all day reading one book in particular called David Goldblatt (55) by Leslie Lawson. While Marit and Nate would probably want me to pick a photograph I saw as my object, this book was what really intrigued me because it contextualized everything I had been seeing.
When we had been going through the photographs, there was one of an Afrikaans family building a coffin for a neighbors servant. In the book it discussed how photographs like this showcased “the generous spirit of the Afrikaners side by side with a deep fear and rabid hatred of black people” These people had devoted an entire afternoon to help a neighbor, yet had been joking about what parts of woman’s body they would cut off if she didn’t fit. It really intrigued me how Goldblatt was able to have a compassion for these people, while also distain for their racist tendencies. Similarly to how Nelson Mandela wanted to join both black, white, indian, colored, and Afrikaans together, Goldblatt wanted to highlight the complexities of humanity, and join South Africans rather than divide them.
One photograph in the book also really showcased this for me. I’m not sure if its one the gallery owns, but it shows a Plot-holder with one of the young girls who is the daughter of a servant. Often in rural communities Goldblatt found that there was a certain intimacy between the black and white that would have been unthinkable in cities. This concept reminded me of our talk with Steven Hobbs and when he described hearts beating in sync when people lay together in bed. Spending time with and especially living with others creates a sort of camaraderie that can easily be forgotten when living in isolation behind large walled homes in the city.