Archive: Issue No. 55, March 2002

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Dave Southwood

'People Who Other People Think Look Like Me' series

All images C-prints
by Dave Southwood

Dave Southwood 'People Who Other People Think Look Like Me' series

Dave Southwood

'Nothing in the Particular' series

Dave Southwood

'Nothing in the Particular' series

Dave Southwood

'Studio Interiors' series

Dave Southwood

'Studio Interiors' series

Dave Southwood

'Rest and Motion' series

Dave Southwood

'Gun Owners' series

Dave Southwood

'Shrapnel' series

Dave Southwood

'Shrapnel' series

Dave Southwood

'In Between' series

Dave Southwood
by Paul Edmunds (March, 2002)

Photographer Dave Southwood moves into the spotlight this month with a solo show opening at Bell-Roberts Art Gallery on March 13, coinciding with the second Cape Town Month of Photography.


Despite the fact that no one particular subject dominates his oeuvre, Southwood claims that all his work bears some relation to landscape. Describing a recent series of portraits of 'People Who Other People Think Look Like Me', he draws attention to the sharp focus and harsh flashlight which throw the contours and lines of the faces into sharp relief - producing, he says, a kind of topography. There is also a historical reference here, with Southwood borrowing from "a German precedent begun in the 1920s and manifesting now in very sharp, flat representations of landscape. Not only does this school concern itself with photographing traditional landscape, but social landscapes consisting of lists of 'types'." Southwood established a rigorous methodology for finding and photographing subjects in this series, and the photographs are lit using a medical flash which makes all the portraits look very similar. He asks: "Having seen these portraits, do you think that you know a bit about my character?"

A self-taught photographer, Southwood cites the ubiquitous David Goldblatt as an influence, as well as the late 1970s US school of photographers known as "The New Topographers". One of them said: "The world is infinitely more interesting than my opinions on it" - sentiments that have an interesting bearing on Southwood's recent work with a large-format camera. The nature of the format results in less of a focus on single aspects of a composition and more on the whole. And the longer time spent setting up a picture with this equipment means people get over their camera curiosity and allow things to return to normal.

Looking at an earlier body of work shot on 35mm film, you can see that Southwood has been exploring these concerns for some time. For 'Case', he photographed shattered bullet casings removed from murder victims for forensic purposes. Exquisitely lit with saturated hues from multi-coloured gels, the isolated objects "let the viewer experience layers of meaning unfolding one by one, until they accumulate to tell a huge and violent story", according to Chris Roper. "[T]aking a violent object and turning it into a beautiful thing is an old trick of artists ... [but] these images are about more than violence. They are also about the processes of photography, about 'shooting the person',� Roper wrote.

The photographer is always somewhere between objectivity and involvement. Southwood acknowledges and explores this position with images that are balanced, clear and often extraordinarily beautiful.


Southwood is a full-time photographer working towards a solo exhibition, 'Nothing in the Particular', at the Bell-Roberts Art Gallery in Cape Town this month.

He makes his living doing commercial and editorial work, and recently undertook a series of commissions for Colors magazine. In February he photographed Pollsmoor prison and inmates for a forthcoming issue. He recently returned from a trip to Swaziland with Artthrob contributor Sean O'Toole, where he photographed sex workers along a notorious trucking route. He has also photographed Valkenberg Mental Hospital for Colors, with striking sincerity and clarity. The trust he established with his subjects comes to the surface in his harsh and compelling images, and the patients appear remarkably free from the objectifying scrutiny of which the camera can be so guilty.


Southwood's first solo show was 'In Between' at the João Ferreira Fine Art gallery in 1998, during the first Month of Photography. He presented pairs of unrelated images, inevitably leading the viewer to make connections - formal or otherwise - between the two.

For 'Shuttle '99', a cultural exchange with Finland, he chose to explore aspects of gun culture in South Africa. Somehow managing to secure the spent bullet casings from gang-related murder victims, Southwood photographed these with a range of lights and colored gels. Greatly magnified, they were cropped into circles and presented splatter-style on the walls of the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet in Cape Town and as decals all over the city in Johannesburg. The works were sold to the Finnish Museum of Photography.

In 2000 Southwood began teaching street photographers at the Centre for Photography, creating a syllabus and administering the course himself. He has remained involved with a number of these students and helped them to establish an association to represent themselves. Southwood still works with the Umbilo Photographers' Association, as they have become known.

In 2001 Southwood spent some time in London and made a short trip to Madrid to take part in 'PhotoEspana'. While in London, he took the opportunity to pick up some of the obscure electronic music which is the trademark of his regular DJ slots at a number of Cape Town nightspots and parties.


I first met Southwood in Pietermaritzburg in 1995 when he was in his final year at university. He was strictly an amateur photographer then, but, as I recall, regularly won film from the local camera club. He moved to Cape Town in 1996 and proceeded to build a career for himself as a photographer with a combination of an unusual eye for images, a fast developing technical ability and his inimitable people skills. He worked, with a mixture of humility and chagrin, as an assistant to various photographers in fashion and editorial work. (Look out for the rare Springbok Nude Girls live tape for which Southwood photographed the cover). In 1998 he spent four months as a photojournalist with the Sunday Times in Durban.

In addition to preparing for his next solo exhibition, Southwood is busy curating an exhibition of work by the Langa street photographers with whom he has been associated since 2000. He is also working on a proposal for a Masters degree in History of Art, exploring the nature of street photography and documenting this tradition, which remains largely unrecorded.

Dave Southwood was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1971. He obtained a BA in 1995, majoring in History and Legal Studies at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

Selected exhibitions:
1998 'In Between', João Ferreira Fine Art Gallery, Cape Town

1998 Invited to attend the 'Shuttle '99' exchange between Finland and South Africa. This involved spending two weeks with 8 other contemporary SA photographers in a workshop run by Stefan Bremer, Finland's most famous photographer/academic

1998 - 'eye Africa - African Photography 1840 - 1998', South African National Gallery and Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town

1998 - 'In Between', Durban Centre for Photography, NSA Gallery, Durban

1999 - 'X Scapes', NSA Gallery, Durban

1999 - 'X Scapes', Bensusan Museum, Johannesburg

1999 - 'CASE', Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet, Cape Town

2000 - 'Breathe 1', Stockholm, Sweden

2000 - Finalist in the Absa Atelier competition

2000 - Jokes from Old Folks, video installation at 'Soft Serve', South African National Gallery, Cape Town

2000 - 'Untitled', Market Theatre Gallery and City of Johannesburg

2000 - 'Average', Goethe Instituut, Cape Town

2001- 'Bodies: Rest and Motion', Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, Oudtshoorn

2001- 'Dislocation', Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain

2002 - 'Dis/location', Sala Rekalde, Bilbao, Spain

Southwood's work is to be found in the Finnish Museum of Photography as well as many private collections.


Alan Alborough
(July 2000)
Jane Alexander
(July 1999)
Siemon Allen
(June 2001)
Willie Bester
(Aug 1999)
Willem Boshoff
(Aug 2001)
Conrad Botes
(Dec 2001)
Andries Botha
(April 2000)
Kevin Brand
(June 1998)
Candice Breitz
(Oct 1998)
Lisa Brice
(Jan 1999)
Pitso Chinzima
(Oct 2001)
Steven Cohen
(May 1998)
Linda Givon
(Dec 1999)
Brad Hammond
(Jan 2001)
Randolph Hartzenberg
(Aug 1998)
Kay Hassan
(Oct 2000)
Stephen Hobbs
(Dec 1998)
Robert Hodgins
(June 2000)
William Kentridge
(May 1999)
Isaac Khanyile
(Nov 2001)
Dorothee Kreutzfeld
(Jan 2000)
Terry Kurgan
(Aug 2000)
Moshekwa Langa
(Feb 1999)
Mandla Mabila
(Sept 2001)
Veronique Malherbe
(June 1999)
Mustafa Maluka
(July 1998)
Senzeni Marasela
(Feb 2000)
Zwelethu Mthethwa
(April 1999)
Thomas Mulcaire
(April 2001)
Brett Murray
(Sept 1998)
Hylton Nel
(Feb 2002)
Karel Nel
(Oct 1999)
Walter Oltmann
(July 2001)
Tracy Payne
(Mar 1998)
Peet Pienaar
(Dec 2000)
Jo Ractliffe
(Mar 1999)
Robin Rhode
(Nov 1999)
Tracey Rose
(Mar 2001)
Claudette Schreuders
(Sept 2000)
Berni Searle
(May 2000)
Usha Seejarim
(May 2001)
Penny Siopis
(Sept 1999)
Greg Streak
(Feb 2001)
Clive van den Berg
(Nov 1998)
Hentie van der Merwe
(Mar 2000)
Strijdom van der Merwe
(Jan 2002)
Minnette Vári
(Feb 1998)
Jeremy Wafer
(Nov 2000)