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Graeme Williams
Graeme Williams
Graeme Williams

Graeme Williams

Country: South Africa
Birth: 1961

I grew up in the whites-only suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa during the apartheid era, when South African law decreed that 92% of the population were regulated to the status of second-class citizens.

My interest in photography began at the age of twelve, but I soon realized that a Kodak Instamatic was never going to produce the results that I wanted. I worked for three years in a bookshop and eventually bought myself a Fujica ST701. It was a real thing of beauty; a single reflex camera with a basic zoom lens, that provided me with the means to control how light formed itself onto the surface of the silver halide film. Sunsets and silhouettes held my attention for a few months, but I had already begun to explore the complex tradition of photographic expression. Life Magazine was for me, at that time, the Holy Grail. Over the years, my enthusiasm for exploring the photographic medium has never diminished.

My photographic momentum was temporarily diverted after school by parental pressure to obtain a 'proper' qualification. In my final school year I was both the Dux scholar as well as a first team sportsman, which resulted in me being offered a De Beers bursary to study Geology and Statistics at the University of Cape Town. After graduating, I broke the news to my unnerved parents that I was giving up this career path and instead becoming a property photographer at the local newspaper. In the hierarchy of photographic jobs this is very close to the bottom. My immediate aim was to gain access to unlimited amounts of film and the time to work on my own projects.

In 1987 I began photographing a conscientious objector and medical doctor, Ivan Toms, who refused to comply with the apartheid government's military service requirements. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison. The essay, highlighted the absurdity of the political system. Renowned photographer, David Goldblatt , took an interest in this work and this interaction led to a three-decade relationship in which he became both a mentor and a friend. The rights to my essay on Ivan Toms were bought by Life magazine the following year.

Much of my work during this period was motivated by the desire to expose the social inequalities and racial divisions within my country. I eventually joined the strongly anti-apartheid collective, Afrapix and later became a founding member and manager of documentary collective, South Photographs.

In 1989, the beginning of the end of apartheid was evident. I was eager to situate myself in a position that would afford me the best opportunities to witness the transition to democracy. I joined Reuters News Agency as permanent stringer and for the next five years, I became immersed in the events, both violent and momentous, that led up to the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994. Many of my photographs from this period have taken on a life of their own. The image of Nelson Mandela walking out of prison with his wife, Winnie, has been exhibited and published worldwide. In 2008, as Barack Obama fought John McCain for the presidency, Newsweek magazine ran a story asking each candidate to choose an image that best personified their world view. Obama's team chose an image that I photographed in Thokoza township in 1991. Last year the same photograph became central in a high profile image-appropriation dispute between myself and New York artist, Hank Willis Thomas. There was a massive groundswell of support from colleagues and media from around the world. An amicable settlement was reached.

Since 1994 I have concentrated on producing personalized and contemporary bodies of work that reflect this complex country and the continent as a whole. These essays have been shown in solo exhibitions in New York, London, Paris, Cape Town and Johannesburg as well as numerous photo festivals around the world. (Including China, Singapore, Brazil, Cambodia, France, and the USA). I have been privileged to have been included in major international exhibitions showcasing contemporary South African photography; including Figures and Fictions at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, Apartheid and After at Huis Marseille in Amsterdam, Earth Matters at the Smithsonian in New York, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid at the ICP in New York and Being There, at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Awards include the CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography (Basel) in 2013, and the Ernest Cole Award (South Africa) in the same year.

I have continued working on commissioned assignments and traveling to over fifty countries. My photographs have appeared on the cover of Time magazine twice, and have been published in The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Newsweek, Stern, and many others.

Whilst working on my long-term projects, I try to bear in mind how the work will be exhibited and published. So therefore, during the planning and photographing stages, I attempt to create a broad context for my essays, that includes a general look and feel, while creating the space for each image to convey its individual complexity. This need to develop a dual awareness in my personal work has benefitted from a long-term interest in designing and producing photobooks. I have created over 20 publications, some of them winning awards and many being shortlisted in dummy book competitions.

During the past five years I have felt a need to shift my attention from South Africa to the America social, political and physical landscape. Some of my motivations for this change in direction have been outlined within the 'Plan' document. In 2016 I was granted a residency in the US by the Ampersand Foundation, giving me an opportunity to develop a body of work that interrogated the social strata within the greater community of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I designed and produced a book called, Diverging Dreamlines that included, portraits, urban landscapes as well as multi-image, digital, illustrations. The publication was chosen as "best of show" in the Annual Photobook Exhibition at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Massachusetts. The work was also included in the Unmasked exhibition at Axis Gallery, New York in 2017.

Earlier this year (2019) I co-presented a paper, Over Time, at the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) Congress held in London. Four of my personal essays were incorporated into the presentation, allowing a psychoanalytical exploration into the parallels between this photographic record and South Africa's dynamics and process of change.

I have participated in various mentorship programs, supporting students from South African photographic institutions: Tierney Fellowship winners from the University of the Witwatersrand (2018/2019) and the Market Photo Workshop (2015/2016). As well as candidates from the Photographer incubator Program in 2016.

Learn more about Graeme Williams on videos:

Victoria and Albert Museum
Photography and Democracy
South African Studios
Dwell in Possibility opening

Check out Graeme Williams's interview about his latest project America Revisited

Discover Graeme Williams' Interview
 

Graeme Williams's Video

Selected Book

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More Great Photographers To Discover

László Moholy-Nagy
Hungary
1895 | † 1946
László Moholy-Nagy (July 20, 1895 - November 24, 1946) was a Hungarian painter and photographer as well as professor in the Bauhaus school. He was highly influenced by constructivism and a strong advocate of the integration of technology and industry into the arts. Moholy-Nagy was born László Weisz in Bácsborsód to a Jewish-Hungarian family. His cousin was the conductor Sir Georg Solti. He attended Gymnasium (academic high school) in the city of Szeged. He changed his German-Jewish surname to the Magyar surname of his mother's Christian lawyer friend Nagy, who supported the family and helped raise Moholy-Nagy and his brothers when their Jewish father, Lipót Weisz left the family. Later, he added "Moholy" ("from Mohol") to his surname, after the name of the Hungarian town Mohol in which he grew up. One part of his boyhood was spent in the Hungarian Ada town, near Mohol in family house. In 1918 he formally converted to the Hungarian Reformed Church (Calvinist); his Godfather was his Roman Catholic university friend, the art critic Ivan Hevesy. Immediately before and during World War I he studied law in Budapest and served in the war, where he sustained a serious injury. In Budapest, on leaves and during convalescence, Moholy-Nagy became involved first with the journal Jelenkor ("The Present Age"), edited by Hevesy, and then with the "Activist" circle around Lajos Kassák's journal Ma ("Today"). After his discharge from the Austro-Hungarian army in October 1918, he attended the private art school of the Hungarian Fauve artist Róbert Berény. He was a supporter of the Communist Dictatorship (known as "Red Terror" and also "Hungarian Soviet Republic"), declared early in 1919, though he assumed no official role in it. After the defeat of the Communist Regime in August, he withdrew to Szeged. An exhibition of his work was held there, before he left for Vienna around November 1919. He left for Berlin early in 1920. In 1923, Moholy-Nagy replaced Johannes Itten as the instructor of the foundation course at the Bauhaus. This effectively marked the end of the school's expressionistic leanings and moved it closer towards its original aims as a school of design and industrial integration. The Bauhaus became known for the versatility of its artists, and Moholy-Nagy was no exception. Throughout his career, he became proficient and innovative in the fields of photography, typography, sculpture, painting, printmaking, and industrial design. One of his main focuses was photography. He coined the term "the New Vision" for his belief that photography could create a whole new way of seeing the outside world that the human eye could not. His theory of art and teaching is summed up in the book The New Vision, from Material to Architecture. He experimented with the photographic process of exposing light sensitive paper with objects overlain on top of it, called photogram. While studying at the Bauhaus, Moholy's teaching in diverse media — including painting, sculpture, photography, photomontage and metal — had a profound influence on a number of his students, including Marianne Brandt. Perhaps his most enduring achievement is the construction of the "Lichtrequisit einer elektrischen Buehne" [Light Prop for an Electric Stage] (completed 1930), a device with moving parts meant to have light projected through it in order to create mobile light reflections and shadows on nearby surfaces. Made with the help of the Hungarian architect Istvan Seboek for the German Werkbund exhibition held in Paris during the summer of 1930, it is often interpreted as a kinetic sculpture. After his death, it was dubbed the "Light-Space Modulator" and was seen as a pioneer achievement of kinetic sculpture. It might more accurately be seen as one of the earliest examples of Light Art. Moholy-Nagy was photography editor of the Dutch avant-garde magazine International Revue i 10 from 1927 to 1929. He resigned from the Bauhaus early in 1928 and worked free-lance as a highly sought-after designer in Berlin. He designed stage sets for successful and controversial operatic and theatrical productions, designed exhibitions and books, created ad campaigns, wrote articles and made films. His studio employed artists and designers such as Istvan Seboek, Gyorgy Kepes and Andor Weininger. After the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, and, as a foreign citizen, he was no longer allowed to work, he operated for a time in Holland (doing mostly commercial work) before moving to London in 1935. In England, Moholy-Nagy formed part of the circle of émigré artists and intellectuals who based themselves in Hampstead. Moholy-Nagy lived for a time in the Isokon building with Walter Gropius for eight months and then settled in Golders Green. Gropius and Moholy-Nagy planned to establish an English version of the Bauhaus but could not secure backing, and then Moholy-Nagy was turned down for a teaching job at the Royal College of Art. Moholy-Nagy made his way in London by taking on various design jobs including Imperial Airways and a shop display for men's underwear. He photographed contemporary architecture for the Architectural Review where the assistant editor was John Betjeman who commissioned Moholy-Nagy to make documentary photographs to illustrate his book An Oxford University Chest. In 1936, he was commissioned by fellow Hungarian film producer Alexander Korda to design special effects for Things to Come. Working at Denham Studios, Moholy-Nagy created kinetic sculptures and abstract light effects, but they were rejected by the film's director. At the invitation of Leslie Martin, he gave a lecture to the architecture school of Hull University. In 1937, at the invitation of Walter Paepcke, the Chairman of the Container Corporation of America, Moholy-Nagy moved to Chicago to become the director of the New Bauhaus. The philosophy of the school was basically unchanged from that of the original, and its headquarters was the Prairie Avenue mansion that architect Richard Morris Hunt designed for department store magnate Marshall Field. Unfortunately, the school lost the financial backing of its supporters after only a single academic year, and it closed in 1938. Moholy-Nagy was also the Art Advisor for the mail-order house of Spiegel in Chicago. Paepcke, however, continued his own support, and in 1939, Moholy-Nagy opened the School of Design. In 1944, this became the Institute of Design. In 1949 the Institute of Design became a part of Illinois Institute of Technology and became the first institution in the United States to offer a PhD in design. Moholy-Nagy authored an account of his efforts to develop the curriculum of the School of Design in his book Vision in Motion. Moholy-Nagy died of leukemia in Chicago in 1946. Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest is named in his honour. Works by him are currently on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The software company Laszlo Systems (developers of the open source programming language OpenLaszlo) was named in part in honor of Moholy-Nagy. In 1998, he received a Tribute Marker from the City of Chicago. In the autumn of 2003, the Moholy-Nagy Foundation, Inc. was established as a source of information about Moholy-Nagy's life and works. (Source: en.wikipedia.org)
Cara Weston
United States
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John Engstead
United States
1909 | † 1983
John Engstead (22 September 1909 in California - 15 April 1983 in West Hollywood, California) was an American photographer. Engstead began his career in 1926, when he was hired as an office boy by Paramount Pictures' head of studio publicity, Harold Harley. In 1927, Engstead pleased his boss by arranging a photo session for actress Clara Bow with photographer Otto Dyer using an outdoor setting which was unusual at that time. Engstead's creative direction of photographs of actress Louise Brooks led to a promotion to art supervisor, where he oversaw the production of Paramount's publicity stills. In 1932, due to a strike by photographers, Engstead assumed the position of studio portrait photographer, despite having never previously photographed anyone. Actor Cary Grant posed for his practice shots. He returned to his job as art supervisor after the strike was resolved. In 1941, Paramount Pictures fired Engstead, and Harper's Bazaar hired him for freelance advertising and portrait photography assignments. From 1941 to 1949, he took fashion photography assignments from numerous other magazines, including Collier's, Esquire, House Beautiful, Ladies Home Journal, Life, Look, Mademoiselle, McCall's, Vogue, and Women's Home Companion. In the 1940s, Engstead photographed many celebrities, including Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Maureen O'Hara and Shirley Temple. Unlike other photographers, he often shot his subjects at home or outdoors, and his portraits of a young Judy Garland in Carmel, California were particularly successful. During this decade, he built a studio in Los Angeles that became a gathering place for celebrities. Engstead continued to photograph movie stars and other celebrities through the 1950s (Marilyn Monroe) and 1960s. He produced promotional material for many television personalities, including Pat Boone, Carmel Quinn, Donna Reed, Ozzie and Harriet, Eve Arden, and Lucille Ball. He also shot cover photos for albums recorded by singers such as Peggy Lee and Connie Francis, as well as society portraits. His work extended into governmental figures in the 1950s, including then-Second Lady Pat Nixon. Engstead closed his studio in 1970 but continued to accept special portrait and television assignments until his death in 1984 at age 72. Engstead's images are represented by the Motion Picture and Television Photo Archive and can be viewed by the public at MPTV.net. Source: Wikipedia Engstead began his career in 1926, when he was hired as an office boy by Paramount Pictures’ head of studio publicity. Engstead impressed bosses and was promoted to art supervisor, where he oversaw the production of Paramount’s publicity stills. In 1932, Engstead assumed the position of studio portrait photographer, despite having never previously photographed anyone. By 1941, Engstead was working for various magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Life, Look and Vogue. Engstead built a studio in Los Angeles that became a gathering place for celebrities. Engstead continued to photograph movie stars and other celebrities through the 1950s and 1960s. Engstead closed his studio in 1970 but continued to accept special portrait and television assignments until his death.Source: Motion Picture and Television Photo Archive
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Yasmine Chatila
Yasmine Chatila was born in Cairo in 1974, growing up between Cairo, Italy, France, and Canada. She graduated with a Bachelor in fine Arts from Parsons School of Design in New York, and Masters in Fine Arts from Columbia University School of Arts in 2002. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Tag Heuer scholarship for eight consecutive years, and a Columbia fellowship. Her work has been exhibited worldwide, including locations like Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, and Ludwig Museum in Cologne. Stolen Moments have been published by Rizzoli press in the book New York: A Photographer's City and World Atlas Street Photography published by Yale Press. She has been featured in international publications including Vogue Italia, NBC News, IO Donna, Interview Magazine, Foam Magazine, Art in America, Exit Art, New York Post, Wired Magazine, Blackbook, and many more. Her website has attracted millions of viewers, making her work synonymous with voyeurism in art and conceptual photography. All about Stolen Moments On a quiet winter night, I looked out a window. I could see a building far away, the windows were illuminated, and I could vaguely make out people inside their apartments. When I imagined what they might be doing, my mind fluttered between wild fantasies and mundane clichés. I was curious to compare my expectations to the reality of their lives. After months of continuous observation in different parts of the city, I collected hundreds of photographs of strange, comical, and often haunting moments. At times, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of human nature when it was not guarded, not self-conscious, and completely uninhibited. This provided me with a stage where it was possible to observe myself in the most secret and vulnerable moments of others. In order to render the subjects unrecognizable, and in an attempt to render them more archetypal, they are taken out of context and displaced from their original habitat.
August Sander
Germany
1876 | † 1964
August Sander (17 November 1876 – 20 April 1964) was a German portrait and documentary photographer. Sander's first book Face of our Time (German: Antlitz der Zeit) was published in 1929. Sander has been described as "the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century." Sander was born in Herdorf, the son of a carpenter working in the mining industry. While working at a local mine, Sander first learned about photography by assisting a photographer who was working for a mining company. With financial support from his uncle, he bought photographic equipment and set up his own darkroom. He spent his military service (1897–99) as a photographer's assistant and the next years wandering across Germany. In 1901, he started working for a photo studio in Linz, Austria, eventually becoming a partner (1902), and then its sole proprietor (1904). He left Linz at the end of 1909 and set up a new studio in Cologne. In 1911, Sander began with the first series of portraits for his work People of the 20th Century. In the early 1920s, he came in contact with the Group of Progressive Artists (Kölner Progressive) in Cologne, a group as Wieland Schmied put it, "sought to combine constructivism and objectivity, geometry and object, the general and the particular, avant-garde conviction and political engagement, and which perhaps approximated most to the forward looking of New Objectivity [...] ". In 1927, Sander and writer Ludwig Mathar travelled through Sardinia for three months, where he took around 500 photographs. However, a planned book detailing his travels was not completed. Sander's Face of our Time was published in 1929. It contains a selection of 60 portraits from his series People of the 20th Century. Under the Nazi regime, his work and personal life were greatly constrained. His son Erich, who was a member of the left wing Socialist Workers' Party (SAP), was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he died in 1944, shortly before the end of his sentence. Sander's book Face of our Time was seized in 1936 and the photographic plates destroyed. Around 1942, during World War II, he left Cologne and moved to a rural area, allowing him to save most of his negatives. His studio was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid. Sander died in Cologne in 1964. His work includes landscape, nature, architecture, and street photography, but he is best known for his portraits, as exemplified by his series People of the 20th Century. In this series, he aims to show a cross-section of society during the Weimar Republic. The series is divided into seven sections: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People (homeless persons, veterans, etc.). By 1945, Sander's archive included over 40,000 images. In 2002, the August Sander Archive and scholar Susanne Lange published a seven-volume collection comprising some 650 of Sander's photographs, August Sander: People of the 20th Century. In 2008, the Mercury crater Sander was named after him. (Source: wikipedia.org)
Ian van Coller
South Africa
1970
Ian van Coller was born in 1970, in Johannesburg, South Africa, and grew up in the country during a time of great political turmoil. These formative years became integral to the subject matter van Coller has pursued throughout his artistic career. His work has addressed complex cultural issues of both the apartheid and post-apartheid eras, especially with regards to cultural identity in the face of globalization, and the economic realities of every day life. Van Coller received a National Diploma in Photography from Technikon Natal in Durban, and in 1992 he moved to the United States to pursue his studies where he received a BFA from Arizona State University, and an MFA from The University of New Mexico. He currently lives in Bozeman, Montana with his wife, children, and three dogs, and is a Professor of Photography at Montana State University. His work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally and is held in many significant museum collections, including The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Getty Research Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Library of Congress, and The South African National Gallery. Van Coller's first monograph, Interior Relations, was published by Charles Lane Press (New York) in 2011. He is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the Piece of Cake collective. Van Coller's most recent work focuses on environmental issues related to climate change and deep time. These projects have centered on the production of large scale artist books, as well as direct collaborations with paleo-climatologists. About Naturalists of the Long Now Climate change has compressed and conflated human and geologic time scales, making it essential to find ways to conceptualize “deep time.” My project, Naturalists of the Long Now, seeks to make notions of deep time comprehensible through visual exploration of glacier ice, as well as other earthly archives. Initially inspired by the 10,000 Year Clock Project of the Long Now Foundation, I have begun collaborating with scientists to make art that challenges viewers to think about the vast scales of geologic time-both past and future-that are recorded not only in the earth’s ice bodies, but in trees, sediments, corals and fossils. Photography is a unique and powerful visual language. However, what that language sometimes lacks is the information needed to bring about understanding of what is represented in the photograph itself. In 2015, I was able to accompany a team of geoscientists who specialize in climate science related to Quelccaya Glacier in Peru. I was astonished at the endurance of these men and women. Every day they would climb to the summit of the glacier at 18,600ft, and then work over 10 hours straight, drilling ice cores, digging snow pits, and collecting data. It would be exhausting work at sea level, let alone at altitude. I realized I really had a lack of understanding of what the scientists were trying to do. Where the symbolic conversations in my ice portraits ended, the deep knowledge of ice possessed by the scientists would sustain and expand it. When I was a young person, I was fascinated by the annotated drawings and paintings of Victorian era naturalists, botanists and ornithologists. These brought together the two things I loved most in the world-art and nature. Since that expedition to Peru, I have started intimate collaborations with scientists by having them annotate directly onto my photographic prints-a contemporary taxonomy of ice and climate-thus re-inventing a genre of naturalist imagery. Naturalists of the Long Now breaks down barriers between art and science, and creates a dialogue between text and image, landscape and viewer, expert and novice, past, present and future. My intention is that Naturalists of the Long Now is to encourage people to think in terms of longer spans of time, and consider what humanity will look like in 100 or even 10,000 years-instead of just considering our personal and immediate desires.
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