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Afrapix was a collective agency of amateur and professional photographers who opposed Apartheid in South Africa and documented South Africa in the 1980s. The group was established in 1982 and dissolved itself in 1991.
Afrapix was independently funded by its members, who were both black and white. The group received both national and international feedback, as their photographs were used across the world. Oxfam used photographs by a number of Afrapix members to illustrate their 1990 publication 'We Cry for our Land: Farmworkers in South Africa', and some Afrapix pictures were also used in Oxfam's 'Front Line Africa: The Right to a Future' (1990). Afrapix members photographed their own projects and also conducted workshops in black communities that focused on photography and literacy through artwork. Afrapix members shared their technical knowledge while mentoring individuals in these areas.
As the period was known as the “struggle years,” the photographs and projects produced through Afrapix were labeled as “struggle photography.” Many of the photographers considered themselves political activists or had a political agenda, and worked to raise awareness about the evils of apartheid. The various artists of Afrapix agreed that they were a team working against apartheid, but that their inspirations came from different places.
Many of the images were of rallies or protests, instances of authority brutality, and impoverished areas. Kylie Thomas suggests that the history of social documentary photography in the Afrapix period is probably more complex and heterogenous than often suggested, especially when analysing the work of women photographers such as Gille De Vlieg and Gisèle Wulfsohn.
A detailed timeline of Afrapix is accessible at the SA History Online website.
Principles and Objectives
Paul Weinberg, one of the co-founders of Afrapix, said that Afrapix aimed to be "an agency and a picture library and to stimulate documentary photography" (see 'Art and the End of Apartheid', Peffer, 2009, p.254) and also set this in the context of the day:
photography can't be divorced from the political, social issues that surround us daily. As photographers we are inextricably caught up in those processes-we are not objective instruments but play a part in the way we choose to make our statements.
Joseph Alfers, Peter Auf de Hyder, Omar Badsha, Steve Hilton Barber, Gille de Vlieg, Graham Goddard, Dave Hartman, Lesley Lawson, Chris Ledochowski, John Liebenberg, Herbert Mabuza, Humphrey Phakade "Pax" Magwaza, Kentridge Matabatha, Rafique Mayet, Mxolise Mayo, Vuyi Lesley Mbalo, Peter McKenzie, Roger Meintjies, Eric Miller, Santu Mofokeng, Deseni Moodliar, Cedric Nunn, Billy Paddock, Biddy Partridge, Myron Peters, Jeeva Rajgopaul, Wendy Schwegmann, Cecil Sols, Guy Tillim, Zubeida Vallie, Paul Weinberg, Gisèle Wulfsohn, Anna Zieminski
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The photographers put themselves at risk each time they worked, given that authority figures might beat or even shoot them.
While working in townships, their works were confiscated at times. The facilities of some Afrapix members were pillaged. Surveillance by Security Police made situations difficult. Photographers could also be detained extralegally.
Since there was no single person or persons in charge of Afrapix, there were contrasts of perspectives and ideas amongst the members. Due to this, disagreements occurred and the eventual split between the more political side and the individual documentary side, which would later be called Southlight.
There were also many criticisms of the Afrapix movement. It was viewed negatively by some who thought the group only showed black Africans as powerless. Various Afrapix photographers themselves said they felt pressured to fulfill stereotypes through their images.
- Omar Badsha, ed. South Africa: The cordoned heart: Essays. Cape Town: Gallery Press; New York: Norton, 1986. ISBN 0620091258.[n 1]
- Omar Badsha et al, eds. Beyond the barricades: Popular resistance in South Africa: Photographs by twenty South African photographers. New York: Aperture, 1989. ISBN 0-89381-375-3.
- Victor Levie, ed. De Verborgen camera: Zuidafrikaanse fotografie aan de censuur ontkomen = Hidden Camera: South African Photography Escaped from Censorship. Amsterdam: Stichting CASA, 1989. ISBN 9035107411.
- Wendy Davies, We Cry for our Land: Farmworkers in South Africa. Oxfam 1990. ISBN 0-85598-143-1
- Susannah Smith, Front Line Africa: The Right to a Future. Oxfam 1990. ISBN 0-85598-103-2
- Four photographs from this are shown here.
- Kylie Thomas, "Wounding apertures: Violence, affect and photography during and after apartheid", Kronos 38 (2012).
- Annabelle Wienand, "Portraits, publics and politics: Gisele Wulfsohn's photographs of HIV/AIDS, 1987–2007", Kronos 38 (2012).
- "Afrapix timeline 1978–1991", South Africa History Online.
- Quoted by Paul Weinberg, South Africa through the Lens: Social Documentary Photography, Braamfontein, S. A.: Ravan Press 1983. via Krantz, David L. Politics and Photography in Apartheid South Africa. History of Photography, Volume 32, Number 4. Winter 2008. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
- Afrapix - SA History
- Cedric Nunn
- Apartheid - South Africa
- Photographer autonomy and images of resistance: the case of South Africa during the 1980s
- South Africa: Photographing Apartheid, Felix Features
- Cedric Nunn Photography, Struggles
- Photography and the Liberation Struggle in South Africa, South African History Online