Archive: Issue No. 80, April 2004

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Paul Weinberg

Paul Weinberg
Anna Swarts Collecting Roots, Kalahari, Northern Cape
Black and white photograph

Documentary Photographers Gain a Forum for Insight
by Kresta Tyler

Graeme Williams, a founder of SOUTH Photographs, was tired of having people come into his office in Johannesburg and lament that they were photographers "working in the dark without a forum to discuss the issues".

Frustrated by the lack of discourse and the need for an ongoing, orchestrated discussion loose enough to allow a free flow of new ideas, Williams sought to create such a forum. The first evening talk was held at PhotoZA on March 17 last year. Despite limited publicity, organisers were pleased that more than 50 people attended to participate in the viewing of slides and the discussion that ensued. Williams drew upon his ready stable of documentary photographers from SOUTH when he asked Paul Weinberg to be the first evening speaker. Weinberg was a logical choice as his show is to open at PhotoZA in August and a book is to be published on his work later this year. Viewers were treated to many photographs that have not been seen before.

Hoping to create an atmosphere that was not a lecture but rather a laid back interaction between attendees, there was not a strict structure to the evening, which may have been its only failing. The entry cost of R20 and a cash bar were easily understood as necessary to offset the costs for the evening and well worth the price to be in such an intimate environment with renowned South African photographers. Along with Weinberg, also present to take part in the evening were David Goldblatt, Guy Tillim, Giselle Wolfsohn, and George Hallett among others. If an aspiring photographer hoped to find herself exchanging ideas and questions with the best, I can not think of a better opportunity.

Williams hopes that the talks will become regular events, a sentiment certainly shared by those in attendance. While the talks need a bit more structure, the openness of the forum should be maintained. According to Williams, future talks will not only be limited to photographers associated with SOUTH.