JOHANNESBURG ─ South Africa’s World Cup happy ever after has overshadowed the country’s primary issues, which will still exist after the 2010 Cup champion is crowned. Luckily, the Market Photo Workshop in central Johannesburg’s Newtown Precinct will not allow foreign visitors to overlook the reality behind the fairytale.
The school is holding an exhibition until July 15 that will highlight everyday South African life. Some of the exhibition photos are available to view at the nearby Market Theatre and others greet visitors on the lobby walls and Apple computers in the school’s foyer.
John Fleetwood, head of the Market Photo Workshop, said the World Cup was the perfect occasion for the exhibition, titled “World Cup Rural and Urban Photo Diary,” because it has brought a rare mixture of people to the country.
“It is the ideal place to run this project that uses the platform of the World Cup, but tries and put forward photographs of the ordinary, mundane, the margin,” Fleetwood said.
The exhibition portrays the country’s social duality between economically disadvantaged and upper-class citizens.
“I’d like to stick the point that South Africa is a poor country,” Fleetwood said, “and I think often there is such a division between first world and third world within this country that people think everybody is fine, but outside of the urban centers there is incredible poverty.”
About a dozen student photographers were chosen for the exhibition, and all of the students brought their own impressions of South Africa.
One body of work, “Alternative Kids,” draws attention to energetic teenagers with all their idle time, indistinct tattoos and name-brand jeans.
Another series by Mack Magagane, a Market Photo Workshop alumnus, illuminates the obscure shapes and views of Johannesburg architecture using lighting control, or lack thereof.
Magagane said his series raises questions about the state of the city’s buildings, because the government has provided money for the World Cup without thinking about the appearance of the city.
“This is about our people’s state of living, and during this World Cup, which is generating a lot of money, how come people are still living under such structure,” Magagane said.
Fleetwood described the exhibition as a bond between the students and their subjects.
“My interest is in showing personal stories,” Fleetwood said, “personal interaction between photographers and subjects that I think will be able to tell a story.”
After July 15 the photos will be documented in a small publication alongside text provided by researchers in anthropology, to examine the country’s social conditions.