Magnum Photos & Visual Arts Network South Africa (VANSA) sought proposals from early-career South African photographers to make new work in response to a curation of the Magnum Archive by Mark Sealy (Director, Autograph ABP). Two photographers were selected from the open submissions to join a group with two other pre-selected South African photographers from the Of Soul and Joy project.
Litha Luca, Tshepiso Mabula, Tshepiso Mazibuko and Haneem Christian were selected and have received grants of 41,000 South African Rand, as well been given access to workshops and mentoring. They are creating a new body of work in response to the Magnum archive selection, which will be will be curated by Candice Jansen (independent curator), exhibited online and in a physical form that fosters participatory engagement.
The initiative is supported by the British Council #SouthernAfricaArts and Rubis Mécénat, as part of the Of Soul and Joy project.
The aim of this investigation is to explore the work that images do in culture, in relation to race and colonial African histories.
Re-presenting the Archive is a collaboration between Magnum Photos and the Visual Arts Network South Africa (VANSA). Curator Dr Mark Sealy (Autograph) has worked within the historic Magnum Photos archive to curate a body of photographs & unpack various narratives of African culture & diaspora in an attempt to reveal alternative, lesser-known, lesser-seen moments of the African continent’s history. Some have been left out of western epistemes, others suppressed, while some new photo edits offer alternative perspectives on what might have previously been misunderstood, denied or buried.
From its establishment in 1947 to the present day, Magnum photographers have been at the forefront of western photographic documentation. As the world’s photographic and reproduction environment developed and expanded so too did the agency which was formed at a time that was marked by the ravages of WWII and major shifts in global power structures that heralded the beginning of the end of old imperial regimes of power and announced the Cold War as a new political reality.
Here, the Magnum archive is used as a site of critical enquiry concerning the photographic making of Africa through western journalistic tropes. This project functions as an investigation into ‘the who’, ‘the what’, ‘the why’, and ‘the when’ in relation to the photographs produced by Magnum photographers in Africa after WWII and how these images have influenced our understanding of African politics.
This archive curation selects key moments in modern African history for reassessment; these include Senegalese soldiers marching for the Free French troops on the streets of Algiers in 1943, South African elections in 1948 when the Reunited National Party came to power preceding the implementation of apartheid, and examination of the photograph made during the Mau Mau trials of 1954, events surrounding the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the first Pan African festival in 1968 and its international significance.
We have invited early career South African photographers to begin a dialogue with this archive, with the histories presented in this image selection, by submitting short proposals of new work they would like to make in South Africa in response to this selection, or to the thematics or wider issues raised in the selection.
The African Magnum archival material is being researched by Mark Sealy of Autograph ABP. See more here.
The announcement of photography’s invention in January 1839 by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre in France and Henry William Fox Talbot in England represents a defining moment in the history of Western visual culture, particularly when we consider the dominant European ideologies of the mid nineteenth century and the impact of Enlightenment thought on different cultures at that time. Photographic images played a critical and important role in the constructions of the “Other”. It would therefore be valuable as a curatorial line of enquiry to define the conditions in which we can begin to investigate the archive. By creating a space for new critical photographic dialogues and engagements to emerge, we can begin to make the space for new knowledge about the work archival images do in the present.
Much of the discourse around the history of photography has been preoccupied with defining the photographic canon or considering the photograph in relation to the history of art; leading to the construction and presentation of a populist history of photography that is dominated by Western photographers. It is important to read photography in terms of time, space and distance and to consider the work that a photograph does across different cultures, political perspectives, and contested histories. This requires an examination of photography’s application across the ideological constructions of difference that make up photography’s difficult genealogies.
Magnum and VANSA looked for two early career photographers (or photographic artists) to respond to Mark Sealy’s curation of the Magnum Photos archive, by making new photographic work in response to the content or thematics in the selection. Applicants could interpret this in the broadest sense and possible. Topics could include, but were not limited to:
Applicants briefly outlined how they will respond to the archive and how they will use the grant.
Successful applicants were selected by a professional jury.
Participants are based in South Africa and “early career”, by which we define as under 35 years old, and having had no more than one solo show at a gallery or institution.