06 October 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Fifty from Eighty

Fifty photographs. Fifty faces. Fifty people. Fifty traces. Each face a person. Each person different. And, each different person, remembered and rendered as more than the sum of their parts, in a timeless work of art that speaks to the present as much as to the past.

This is the power of Fifty from Eighty, an installation of photographs by Jurie Moolman, curated by Mike Frampton and, proudly exhibited for the first time in South Africa by the Chalkhamhill Gallery in Hoedspruit. The exhibition was opened by Sam Nzima, who took what became the iconic image of Hector Pieterson during the Soweto Uprisings of 1976.

With Fifty from Eighty, Moolman and Frampton invite you to take a visual journey into the heart of South African identity. This journey is marked by the faces and traces of people and places captured by Moolman’s lens more than thirty years ago. They are pictures of people he knew, people he spent time with, people he remembers and, people he’s allowing us to meet for the first time in more than thirty years.

Their significance is magnified by the decades that have passed between the moment each image was captured, and this exhibition.

While individually, each image is geographically, socially, politically and morally significant, collectively they represent something new; a conceptual shift in the understanding of Moolman’s original images and of South African society itself.

Each individual photograph works with the image next to it to suggest that, as much as they were shot within the frame of Moolman’s lens, they were also shot within the frame of a new South Africa. In this way Moolman’s images become more than simply an honest rendition of the world that he experienced some thirty years ago. They become a pre-democratic vision of inherent human dignity and belonging.

At the same time, the collection of portraits articulates an anonymity that places them outside of time, which opens up interesting opportunities for contemporary readings of the work. Is the show a family album? A comment on society? A record of the past? Or something else altogether? It’s up to you to decide.

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