This year marks what would have been Nelson Mandela’s centenary. As a tribute, The Big Issue South Africa shares this photo story, made up of pictures taken by a handful of South Africa’s bravest press photographers, who were exposed to challenging and often violent situations to report the news.
In 1994, Zelda la Grange, Nelson Mandela’s private secretary, approached Keith with a request to photograph the man also known by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba. This was the start of a 14-year project providing extraordinary access to Mandela, traveling with him during and after his presidency and documenting his daily life.
At times, Keith was one of hundreds of international photographers and journalists at major public events. On other occasions, he was the only photographer present with Madiba in the living room of his official residence, Genadendal. Keith took his final photograph of Mandela in April 2009 in Cape Town.
Benny Gool’s award-winning pictures have been published worldwide. Known for his anti-apartheid images of Cape Flats gangs, he started out selling his photos in 1985 to Grassroots, an alternative newspaper. “Photographers are put into the most extreme situations, under a certain set of circumstances on photographic assignments,” says Benny.
Under the apartheid regime, during the state of emergency, people were restricted in their freedom and press photographers (and journalists) who dodged bullets and lived to tell the tale were arrested regularly by authorities who enforced this restriction.
Today, Benny and fellow photographer Roger Friedman curate nearly 30,000 of their images spanning a 20-year period. Their company, Oryx Media, is associated with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund as well as the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. Benny continues to work in media as a photographer, cameraman and director.
Rashid’s career began when he was a teenager, photographing jazz musicians in the ’60s. As a photojournalist, violence was a common occurrence. Rashid described “facing the threat of death every day by trying to avoid the South African armed forces.”
Rashid had a personal relationship with Mandela and remembers a conversation during a flight they shared: “I was kneeling next to him in a plane headed for Lusaka. He held his infant grandchild in his arms and, turning to me, asked if I had children. When I replied that I did, he wanted to know more about them. He said that what he had missed most while imprisoned was the sound of children.
“Mandela was caring to the point where he once stopped to ask me, while on a photographic assignment, ‘Did you eat?’ and ‘Did you eat from the same food I had?’ He was always concerned about how I was treated and looked after, like he was with all his personnel. I’ve never seen the press act as respectfully when around Mandela. I think it was because we knew that a great man was among us.”
Rashid has his own archives of about 500,000 images, sharing his knowledge as a photographic and events management consultant. He spends every spare moment with his family to make up for ‘lost’ time.
Courtesy of The Big Issue South Africa / INSP
Check out the full Aug. 1 - Aug. 7 issue.
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