Detached View

South Africa is surprising in many ways. Great beauty, poverty, inequality and hope. Going through it in a week gives you some feelings but very few answers. It does not even give you a clue about what the important questions are. Most of all I felt fear. Not for my safety but for the great experiment that is the post-apartheid society. There has been great progress and there is still great hope. The feeling though is that we are in a race against time, that critical mass has not been achieved yet, and must be soon, or else.

Row upon row of government housing hopes to replace the ad-hoc slums all around it. Not enough of these exist and they do not take hold as viable communities without effort. And that is a direct parallel to the country as a whole. A society struggling to rebuild itself to fulfill the dream of the revolution.

Going around for a week photographing made me weary of being a foreign curiosity, intruding. At the same time it was a visual extravaganza. This particular photo was taken through the window of a moving bus after visiting Kliptwon. Everywhere we went there was a compelling illustrated story being told in no uncertain terms. Most of the good shots I took are a mix of photojournalism and aesthetic pursuit, with a much more serious tone than any photography I have ever done. In the end it is all too easy to clinically analyze a country, report back, and move on.

If anything I was left baffled by South Africa. The photography looked great but did not do much to clarify how to think about it. It was perhaps too much to ask of it.

See this photo (and more) in my flickr stream