Museum Exhibition Catalogues, Monographs, Artist's Projects, Curatorial Writings and Essays
"…It was my hope to try and empower these individuals in some way. I asked them if I could take their photographs, and I also asked them to collaborate with me in the making of their portrait. Often they would ask me to come back in an hour so they could wash and change their clothes, and I was happy to do this because it adds to their comfort during the shoot. It was important that I offered them the chance to decide how they wanted to be photographed, and in this way it became, in a sense, about giving them back their dignity and authorship. Their homes were not made of brick and mortar but rather more fragile materials like cardboard and corrugated tin. But their spaces were immaculate and they used colorful coverings and designs for their wall décor." Zwelethu Mthethwa, interviewed by Isolde Brielmaier in Zwelethu Mthethwa published by Damiani.
Zwelethu Mthethwa "challenges conventional ideas of the black subject as a ground-down, dispossessed, disempowered, and abject figure in need of social sympathy. The various series, as a collection, offer an inquiry not only into the crisis of dwelling and habitation that besets the black populations of post-apartheid South Africa but also into the production of citizenship and sovereignty, land and labor. His grand images present the emancipatory possibility of color; its ability to infuse life into beleaguered communities, and to speak persuasively of the dignity of the subjects in the face of their entrapment, and also of their ardor, resilience, and courage. Mtethwa more than amply realizes his ambition to clear the ground, to begin anew, if not necessarily in service of fine arts photography, then at least toward a kind of photography after the end of documentary realism." – Okwui Enwezor, excerpted from "Photography after the End of Documentary Realism" in Zwelethu Mthethwa.
This volume offers a concise introduction to the large-format color photography of Zwelethu Mthethwa (born 1960), South Africa’s most prominent living photographer. Mthethwa’s portraits of Cape Town citizens emphasize qualities of defiance, pride and endurance of hardship, with what the New Yorker described as “an energetic ambivalence between documentary photography and fine-art portraiture.”
Published by Aperture. Text by Isolde Brielmaier, Okwui Enwezor.
Since Apartheid's fall in 1994, South African photography has exploded from the grip of censorship onto the world stage. A key figure in this movement is Zwelethu Mthethwa, whose portraits powerfully frame black South Africans as dignified and defiant individuals, even under the duress of social and economic hardship. Photographing in urban and rural industrial landscapes, Mthethwa documents a range of aspects in South Africa, from domestic life and the environment to landscape and labor issues. Mthethwa's work challenges the conventions of both Western documentary work and African commercial studio photography, marking a transition away from the visually exotic and diseased--or "Afro-pessimism," as curator Okwui Enwezor has described it--and employing a fresh approach marked by color and collaboration. Zwelethu Mthethwa, the artist's long awaited first comprehensive monograph provides an overview of his work to date, and features the stunning portraits that have brought him international acclaim. Born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in 1960, Zwelethu Mthethwa received his BFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, a then white-only university he entered under special ministerial consent. In 1989, he received his Master's degree while on a Fulbright Scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology. Mthethwa has had more than 35 international solo exhibitions and has been featured in numerous group shows, including the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005 and Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography at the International Center of Photography, New York, in 2006. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.