By Paul Wright | 24 May 2020, 08:00am
Jürgen Schadeberg was born in Berlin in 1931, after working as an apprentice photographer for a German Press Agency in Hamburg he emigrated to South Africa in 1950, becoming the art director and chief photographer for Drum Magazine. Jürgen was one of the few European photographers to document the daily lives and struggle of black people during the Apartheid regime and photographed many key political figures including Nelson Mandela.
In 1964 Jürgen left South Africa for the UK to freelance for various magazines and publications, and also teach at the Central School of Art & Design in London. During his time in the UK Jürgen also created a vast body of work documenting the daily lives of inner city working class communities – including an important document of the last days of the old tenements in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, which were demolished in the sixties to make way for new housing and tower blocks.
The photographs taken by Jürgen highlight the daily life for families as they tried to get on with life during the demolition and re-housing phase, despite many of them living in semi derelict conditions.
“I focused on everyday life, which for me was more interesting and often neglected by the media”.
Jürgen “I tried to photograph daily life, the ordinary and the mundane as opposed to the glitter and glamour. It was a time when colour magazines had just started and I began to do assignments for the Observer Magazine, the Sunday Times Magazine and the Weekend Telegraph. It was a euphoric time of the swinging London scene – though this side of society I found uninspiring and superficial which was why I focused on everyday life, which for me was more interesting and often neglected by the media.
“Alongside the superficial glitz was the emergence of satire, with irreverent shows such as ‘Beyond the Fringe’ and ‘That Was The Week That Was’ which made fun of class, race and social issues and the conventional British way of life”.
“My work made it possible for me to cross cultural divides and to jump from one social extreme to another. It was a time when there were no personal computers, cell phones and fax machines therefore there was more social interaction than today”.
“It was easier to access people and buildings and therefore take photographs since there was no necessity for high security checks. I think that photographers today have greater difficulty in taking photographs which might be the reason for the surge in contemporary photography – an artificial medium removed from realism”.
“Seeing these images from a historical perspective will perhaps give a clearer idea of the lifestyle changes that have come about since the sixties in Britain”
Jürgen Schadeberg is a principle figure in South African and World Photography. He continues to actively work on new major photographic projects, books and exhibitions, to tour international shows and to make his own silver archival hand prints.
You can buy archival prints from Jürgen’s vast archive directly from his website www.jurgenschadeberg.com
Follow Jürgen’s Instragram page
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