Galerie Peter Herrmann
Jürgen Schadeberg



Der Text wurde als Auszug mit freundlicher Genehmigung von der AXIS GALLERY übernommen.

Jürgen Schadeberg's 50-year career places him at the forefront of South African photography. Schadeberg joined Drum magazine's staff of three as the photographer in 1951, aged 20. As Drum grew into Africa's leading lifestyle magazine during the '50s and early '60s, Schadeberg edited its look, training several Black photographers whose careers blossomed at Drum. The images Schadeberg shot and selected were not only documentary but aesthetic, searching for deeper significances besides the surface of the image. They pose a collusive message of supplementarity for the viewer: We see what else the picture says, right? In South Africa, visual resistance has often been forced to occupy this slippery threshold of signification.

Drum (and its foreign editions for Nigeria, Ghana, east and central Africa, and the Americas) tracked the emergence of independent African states and the growing resistance to South Africa's Apartheid regime, which came to power in 1948 and immediately began to implement segregation laws.

Despite Apartheid pass laws, which required Blacks to have permits to visit or work in the cities, migration to Johannesburg and other cities in the 1950s created a vibrant urban Black culture. Drum celebrated this African modernity, a modernity linked to African-American experience but rooted in local realities. While America had the Civil Rights Movement and Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and the Inkspots, Schadeberg's mirror gave Drum readers Nelson Mandela and their other leaders, fighting for freedom, and their own music stars: Dolly Rathebe and the African Inkspots, The Manhattan Brothers, Miriam Makeba, and many others. Often, Schadeberg's images capture the convergence of these transatlantic worlds, as when Hugh Masekela receives a trumpet from Satchmo, arranged by activist Father Trevor Huddleston.

Drum proved Black was beautiful. Schadeberg photographed the first Black covergirls - one of his many arrests was on suspicion of sex across the color bar while photographing Dolly Rathebe in a bikini on the golden sands of a Johannesburg slagheap. Drum covered Black beauty contests and boxing-even Mandela boxed for recreation-and reflected and brokered the emergence of a Black urban style influenced by America and its movies. The zoot suit, the hat, the white or two-toned shoes, and the big American car were "in." Even the styling of crime was American. In Johannesburg's vibrant Black township of Sophiatown, the biggest gang was called the "Americans." Their toughs had names like "Boston" and "Homicide Hank," and they favored Borsalino, Woodrow or Stetson hats, and black limos like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. Just as the speakeasies of prohibition-era America had been centers of culture and entertainment, in South Africa the illegal shebeen became the core of nightlife, lubricated with illegal alcohol. Here gathered the gangsters and molls, the prostitute and the preacher, the laborer and the tycoon, and the stars of music, writing, and art.

All of this, what Schadeberg calls the "most dynamic and magical decade of South African history," is in Schadeberg's pictures, together with the darkening clouds of life under Apartheid: the forced expulsion of Sophiatown's residents, to make way for a Whites-only suburb called "Triumph," the first treason trials of Mandela and other leaders, and the massacre of Sharpeville in March 1960.

Drum's documentation and affirmation of Black experience, beyond the margins of White control, was deeply threatening to the Apartheid regime. The work of the Drum photographers exists beyond the realm of the visual and assumes an important ideological function of transgression and defiance. The Apartheid government realized this; Drum was banned in 1965.

The thirty years between Sharpeville and Nelson Mandela's walk to freedom in 1990 were South Africa's darkest. Schadeberg moved to London, where he edited Creative Camera magazine and taught photography and filmmaking at the Central School of Art and Design, and to New York, where he taught photography at the New School. In 1994, Schadeberg was again able to photograph Mandela as a free man, gazing through the bars of his former cell on Robben Island. Jürgen Schadeberg has returned to live in Johannesburg. Together with his wife, Claudia, he has produced numerous films and books.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

Nelson Mandela