As The Grass Grows / Marking Time
Photographs from post-apartheid South Africa
4 September – 3 October 2015
Art First Projects are pleased to introduce selected works from two photographic essays by South African photographer, Graeme Williams. His award winning photographs offer a compelling view of post-apartheid South Africa and are part of a continuing sequence which records the urban and national shifts and realities of a society as it deals with the challenges of a new Democracy.
As the Grass Grows is a collection of portraits of the first generation born after the end of apartheid – eligible and free to vote in the 2014 elections. Nicknamed ‘Born Frees’ their life stories convey the paradox of the aspirations of young South Africans as they come face to face with soaring unemployment and a shockingly imploded school education system - revealed as being the worst out of 148 countries surveyed in a World Economic Forum report.
The portrait illustrated is captioned drily:
Burgersdorp, South Africa, 2015, Athenkosi Gatyeni (18)
Left school after grade 6 when his father told him that he needed to find some work so he could help at his family “I work a bit as a DJ. I have never really thought about what I want to become”.
Marking Time is focused on unfinished, abandoned, re-imagined and re-invented structures within a swiftly changing South African landscape. These, suggests Williams, reflect the ‘state of the nation’. The brevity of the captions conveys the reality of a society in a state of impermanence and incompleteness. Using a square format and bleached light, the tonal images such as shared electricity supply poles, football pitches, old farm entrances near expanding townships, are familiar, or not – depending on who is looking.
Between 1989 and 1994 Williams covered South Africa’s transition to democracy for Reuters and other news organizations, since when he has produced a distinctive and
contemporary body of work.
His photographs featured in the 2011 Figures and Fictions exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Apartheid and After at The Huis Marseille in Amsterdam (2014), and a series of images was showcased in The World Atlas of Street Photography published by Yale University Press and Thames and Hudson in 2014.
For more info see: www.artfirst.co.uk