In the fall of 1992, David Goldblatt was a visiting lecturer at Harvard. The Carpenter Center exhibited works from his book In Boksburg. This was at the height of anti-Apartheid activity around the world, including U.S. campuses (Apartheid would end two years later).
What was remarkable about David’s photography was that he photographed how common and unremarkably ordinary white supremacy was in every facet of life for all South Africans: whites, blacks, Christians, Jews. He didn’t photograph political rallies or anti-Apartheid demonstrations. Instead, he photographed white beauty contests at black super markets, the everyday comforts of the white upper class, and the agonizingly long bus rides of black workers from their townships in the middle of nowhere to their places of work.
In 2016, I reconnected with David after viewing an exhibition of his work “Ex-Offenders at the Scene of the Crime” at the Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York. In this work, he took portraits of criminals at the scenes of their crimes after they had been released from prison. As in all of his earlier work, he sought to look at what others prefer not to see and to humanize all of his subjects, no matter how uncomfortable.
Mark F. Erickson is the author of the photobook Other Streets: Scenes from a Life in Vietnam not Lived.