Issuu on Google+

DALE YUDELMAN dumps the baggage of oversized photographic equipment and heads unbarred into the bottomless aufaitness of the life to which we have

UNDEr DEMocrAcY

IN A DIgItAL worLD rIDDLED wIth UNprEcEDENtED vIsUAL trAffIc, LIfE UNDEr DEMocrAcY Is A provocAtIvE EssAY of coNtrAst AND socIAL coMMENtArY ExEcUtED IN YUDELMAN’s INIMItAbLY EDgY stYLE, IN cohorts wIth NEw-gENErAtIoN tEchNoLogY.

grown accustomed. screaming like motherless newborns, his images smack the life into what we so easily perceive as ordinary… Yudelman delivers a personal, sometimes scathing, and often humorous account of our unruly and evolving democracy. In a digital world riddled with unprecedented visual traffic, Life under Democracy is a provocative essay of

DALE

contrast and social commentary executed

YUDELMAN

in Yudelman’s inimitably edgy style, in cohorts with new-generation technology. A salient social documentary, inoculated against sensationalism, traditionalism and drudgery. A work that invests in the power of smaller moments and features intimate and ‘un-canned’ images of south Africans in their eighteenth year of freedom. A series that speaks with resounding clarity on how the

9 781431 406135

ISBN 978-1-4314-0613-5 www.jacana.co.za

Dale Cover-FA.indd 1

politics of the day filters into reality.

DALE YUDELMAN

2012/08/06 12:37 PM


DALE YUDELMAN

Dale Pre&Post-FA.indd 1

2012/08/06 3:38 PM


At a pavement café, behind dark, ever-present Ray-Bans, Yudelman sits watching a woman walk down the sun-beaten road. With each step the city’s pavements gnaw at her soles – vigorously testing the mettle of the voluptuously proportioned Winnie-the-Pooh slippers adorning her feet. Rising mid-Americano, inwardly delighting at the colourfully shod parade heading his way, he fumbles an apology and takes off after the flamboyant pair. Nobody minds the curt exit. Waiters instinctively know he’ll be back; friends accept that being in his vicinity places them on a permanent photo shoot. Yudelman swings into his approaching-without-malice gait – best described as an unaffected stroll. A casual air is a necessary posture for a tall man about to converge on the path of a stranger. For a while, he says nothing, keeping a safe, friendly following distance. The entire odyssey – from noticing to the point of making contact – has set off a mixture of purposeful calculation and a heady desire to enthrone the pyjama-shoes in all their chunky, why-are-youon-this-pavement glory. Inconsistent conditions and never-to-be repeated moments are what make this uncertain playground an infinitely compelling storybook of unfolding possibilities. After several decades of wielding an array of film and later digital cameras, considerations such as light, background and best angles are calibrations that go on automatically in his brain. The question of relevance hovers nearby, like a reliable but overbearing parent. Undeterred, Yudelman stays close to the fascination. Instinct tells him the bright yellow pavement specials have an interesting tale to tell. But first, there is the matter of clearing some personal barriers: his innate shyness and a culturally ingrained precept of respecting the privacy of others. This is possibly the least comfortable moment of street photography – striking up a conversation with an unknown entity. By now, he has shadowed the woman far enough to gauge something of her state of mind. She notices his genuine interest. Somehow they begin to talk. And there on the tarmac, in the sunshine, a story unfolds. In the first few seconds, it’s about the warm weather, an easy unifier, they both experience this day as equals: it is on this even plane that Yudelman prefers to keep this kind of interaction. Sensing her openness, he compliments the celebrity slippers and asks if he can take a picture with his phone. Caught up in the playful web of his request, stopping for a snapshot seems reasonably normal. After taking a few pics, he shows her how they look, she’s happy they only reveal the smiley bears – and not the face belonging to the scarred legs that have just left the day clinic, about to carry her to a night shelter a couple of blocks away. 2

Dale Pre&Post-FA.indd 2

2012/08/13 8:14 AM


Quarrying for answers in the murky regions of the blindingly familiar

of freedom in mind. The story is of our response and participation in

is what Dale Yudelman does best. In his testament of the lives of

realising the full extent of those dreams as viewed through the eyes of

fellow South Africans, in a country deep in the throes of a pubescent

a well-versed protagonist.

democracy, people, events and even objects become part of

His experiences of past and present set the co-ordinates for this

contemplative essays interpreting how front page news permeates into

self-imposed brief. Yudelman scours the foreground of the public

the fabric of the collective experience.

domain, where he taps into the backstory, looking for less tangible

Life under Democracy was inspired by the Ernest Cole exhibition at the National Gallery in Cape Town, in February 2011. Cole’s images

indicators of change. The opening image presents the first democratic ballot paper

feature life under apartheid. Yudelman’s series looks at life under

issued in 1994. Eighteen years later this early relic of freedom is

democracy after eighteen years of liberation.

considered old enough to be sold along with other memorabilia in an

Many of the images were shot in passing and are personal

antique store, its price tag serving as a reminder of the time when the

daily reflections, while others involve more deliberate excursions.

idea of a democratic South Africa was, for the oppressed, a prized

In Life under Democracy, Yudelman returns to the areas he

imperative; for others, a dangerous idea: and for all, a highly charged

photographed in the eighties, for the series Suburbs in Paradise,

proposition in the silhouette of a prejudiced unknown.

which cross-examines white suburbia under the influence of legislated segregation. To gain perspective, he also visits some of the people and areas

A sprawling cultural diversity as profound and disparate as South Africa’s is no more obvious than at heritage sites. While the history is based on the same facts, the similarities begin to disappear when

Cole photographed. A sense of how much has changed begins to

examining the emotional content of memories and the impact they

develop and, in some cases, how much has stayed the same.

have on the psyches of different ethnic groups.

In a country where old anger is amplified by new barriers

The series gives an insight into the challenges of remembering

imposed in the course of its almost two decades of democratic

the past and understanding the scale of what is implied in finding

rule, where infringements of power and corruption bear the same

meaningful validation for all. Among such jagged recollections: one

watermark as the injustices of apartheid, the question he asks is:

man’s hero is another man’s villain – where even God is not innocent.

How would Mr Cole feel about the freedom he dedicated his life to achieving? As if in conversation, Yudelman uses his iPhone camera as a means

At the other end of the rainbow, Yudelman highlights a child playfully hanging from the rifle of an unknown Boer soldier, a statue at the Paul Kruger Monument in Church Square, Tshwane. The child

of discourse. The senses are unified through a device historically

almost blends into the sculpture, becoming a living addendum to the

utilised for discussion, in turn mirroring the merging of a nation whose

bronzed past (p21).

past is omnipresent. His images easily bear the burden of portraying issues and feelings

Straddling the impressions of our adolescent democracy, Yudelman gives a lucid account of the socio-political topography with all its

as distinctly as if they were actual objects. Transforming the social

awkward insecurities, frustrations and rebelliousness. Within these

experience into knowable, tangible material where the viewer gains

reflections, we see the concerns of a fledgling nation afraid to be seen

access to the emotion of the moment, enables further research along

to be becoming like its betrayers; and how these replications in some

tributaries feeding the cause or circumstance.

instances already go beyond a prediction.

Yudelman’s observations are benefited by a photographic career

The assertion of a new national identity, complicated by a

beginning in the late seventies, starting out as a photojournalist for The

disfiguring and dysfunctional past, is currently pock-marked by greed,

Star newspaper at the height of the political turmoil in South Africa.

corruption, high levels of unemployment and dropping standards in

For the past fifteen years his focus has been on his personal work, with exhibitions shown in galleries around the world. His artistic bent

healthcare, education and general living. As much as he points out and celebrates individuals within the

for decoding social landscapes is fully realised in the art space –

multitudes, confident in their full and unrestrained national voice,

producing work infused with a quirky visual vernacular.

applying for equality, in search of equilibrium and a sense of worth,

Life under Democracy reveals a nation learning to live beyond the

so he also refers to the angst of a country – in and out of step with

confines and within the liberties of two opposing systems: the first,

an evolving understanding of itself: the practice and the concept of

extinct but not silenced; the second, crafted with the highest hopes

democratic freedom. 3

Dale Pre&Post-FA.indd 3

2012/08/06 3:38 PM


Studying the emergent horizon, the work gives a transactional

altered in Yudelman’s masterful hands. Throughout the series he

subcutaneous issues of racial division. It reviews the chasms created

utilises the square-format hipstamatic app which simulates the effects

by the racial segregationist policies of the apartheid government,

of the old-fashioned disposable film and Polaroid cameras. Designed

which led to South Africans becoming economically and culturally

to produce the unpredictable results of the early darkroom, it randomly

dualistic and disassociated.

saturates the image with colour, or washes it out. With a selection of

The signs and symbols pictured in the series reference inter-cultural engagements and present responses in surprising places: a woman wearing Orlando Pirates earrings – a sport and team better known in this country for its predominantly black male supporters (p181). Another image that uses this style of referencing is ‘woman and

the alchemy of the once highly chemical process of developing. The intensified field created by the formatting matches Life under Democracy’s investment in interpreting the fine print of daily life. Unhindered by oversized equipment, he achieves a visual rapport that is exquisite and robust all at once. His portraits are vibrant, poetic

levels of social integration, which, while essentially portraying a

studies of the constant stream of conversation between people and

positive shift, is also laced with ambivalence around white people

their environment – intimate disclosures of the interior realm of his

adopting black babies. The price on the doll flaunts the idea that it is

subjects spilling into view. Using spatially compelling compositions, Yudelman maintains a

up for adoption due to poverty and the problem of an ever-escalating

tight grip on the material world by limiting the amount of information

number of AIDS orphans. Although this practice is quite accepted,

in the image.

there are still the concerns around children losing their cultural heritage through cross-cultural adoptions. Life under Democracy unravels a succession of stories within

Intrigued by the ironies of life he invites the viewer to share his amusement at the contradictions that surround us. ‘Protests’ (p28) shows the second day of heavily-supported protest action in Cape Town.

a story; a multi-layered transcription articulated with an effortless

Demonstrators in full cry are about to go on a blind rampage. In the

visual fluency. Yudelman is not merely quoting from reality, but, like

scene, to the left of the crowd and from his position in the middle of the

any good storyteller, allowing his subjects to describe themselves.

drama, he still manages to throw in a headline from the previous day,

Revelling in the spontaneous spirit of South Africans, the work mirrors

which reads, ‘Municipal strike gets off to a SLOW start.’ It is at these

a nation full of promise and an extraordinary ability to be expansive.

junctures that Yudelman ambushes what might have been a straight

In spite of the difficulties they experience, and sometimes because of the on-going challenges, their lives are a compelling

photojournalistic shot and successfully expands the image to include a mischievous comment on mass media and its defining role within reality.

demonstration of strength and unfettered resilience in the face

Commanding subtleties form powerful optical snares in league

of boundless uncertainty. Values become apparent through the

with Yudelman’s ethics of eschewing brash imagery (unless absolutely

portrayal of the spaces in which they work and pray, what they

required), allowing what he chooses to leave out of the frame to speak

eat and where they shop. The essay draws attention to profound

as distinctly as what he chooses to include.

instances of devotion in caring for fellow citizens; impossible

From the floor of a flea market in Cape Town, he invokes a chilling

miracles requiring enormous strength of character; and a capacity

omen commenting on the fate of the rhino – a wooden statuette of

for nerve-straining enterprise.

the pre-historic creature with the horn missing (p74). Impossible

Yudelman began experimenting with the concept of using his

conversations, spanning alternate dimensions, are a defining feature

iPhone for documentary images shortly before the inaugural Ernest

in this series: the viewer is easily guided to the place where what is

Cole Award was announced. On winning the award, he made a point –

salient is not overshadowed by sensationalism.

as part of the Life under Democracy series – to visit Mamelodi Township where Cole grew up (p217). During his meeting with the Kole1 family members – some of

Dale Pre&Post-FA.indd 4

built-in digitised retro lenses, films and flashes, it conjures up some of

doll’ (p91). Here the image provides a gateway to the complicated

easier to adopt a black child, as there are many more black children

4

The iPhone camera finds its destiny providentially and immutably

analysis of the scale of cultural exchange required, and the

Photographing on the street means that a considerable amount of his time is spent sifting through the clenched reality of everydayness, always in search of yet another clarifying dimension. His images

whom still live in the same house – he was introduced to Moses

reveal the rich chronicles that flow beneath the surface of the flurried

Mogale, now a well-known jazz musician and music teacher in the

ordinary. It is within the backdrop of these surprisingly regular mirrors

community (p193).

that we see ourselves with heightened clarity.

1. Cole, born Kole, managed to have himself reclassified as ‘coloured’ in order to evade the Pass Laws restricting the movement of black people.

2012/08/13 8:26 AM


2

3

5

6

7

8

9

10

1

4

1.

Freedom, 1974 |

2.

The Star press card, 1979 |

Arlene Amaler-Raviv, 2003 |

Dale Pre&Post-FA.indd 5

6.

3.

Reality Bytes, 2002 |

Wits University protest, 1982 | 7.

i am‌ 2007 |

8.

4.

Transformation invitation, 1984 |

Made in RSA, 2010 |

9.

5.

Livestock – collaboration with

Suburbs in Paradise, 1983 |

10.

In a City, 2011

5

2012/08/06 3:39 PM


The viewer’s question might be: ‘How do we walk past the same

He first began taking pictures with a vintage Argus C3, at age 10,

thing and not see this?’ The answer points to the integrity of the

and was later given an Asahi Pentax 35 mm at 14. In his early teens,

storyteller’s unflinchingly sensitive gaze, the nearness of our own

he and his father, still a well-respected and practicing photographer,

isolation and our estrangement from what surrounds us.

attended camera club meetings together at the public library in

This realisation is not for the observer to bear alone. Yudelman’s unique viewpoint remains a reliable presence throughout; a redeeming

Johannesburg. His mother, the late Evelyn Yudelman, was highly creative, well

dose of sanity. Just as things become too stark he zooms in on a

known for her glasswork and mosaic murals. She took great pride in

security guard wearing a maroon beret, standing beside a newspaper

her son’s blossoming talent and, in his youth, the two went on regular

billboard that exclaims, ‘Malema berets sell like hot cakes’ (p116).

excursions into the countryside looking for stimulating subject matter.

Yudelman is a credible witness: fascinated enough to invest in the smaller slices of life in search of a greater truth. Seeking to interpret the many facets of shared experience, he displays a willingness to interact and the patience to be constantly noticing.

The nurturing support of both his parents has played a powerful role throughout his career. At 16 he won the National Schools Photographic Salon with a photograph of his mother running through the woods. At 17, he became the youngest associate of the Photographic Society of

Having a camera conveniently lodged in his phone, Yudelman is prone to replace words with images. In company he can appear to be

South Africa. Before he turned 20, Yudelman held his first solo exhibition

distant, preferring to live the emotional content of his life through

at the Pentax Gallery in Rosebank, Johannesburg and in 1984, he

his photographs. It is in his work that his infinitely social nature

held a fondly-remembered group exhibition (Transformation) with his

becomes apparent.

father and two brothers, at the Market Theatre Gallery in Newtown,

Except for indulging a lifelong appetite for rock music, Yudelman’s time is spent on a career-sustaining assortment of visual

Johannesburg. From 1979, he worked at The Star newspaper as a staff

excursions – art galleries, spending time at flea markets and antique

photographer until his departure from South Africa in 1986, after

stores searching for collectibles, with a particular interest in the

becoming disillusioned when the apartheid government declared a

design elements of retro packaging and signage.

state of emergency and harsh censorship laws were imposed on the

Despite an above-average aversion to large noisy gatherings and

media. First moving to London and later Los Angeles, he freelanced

an inclination to expend as few words as possible, he is popular in

for various newspapers, design agencies and magazines, before

academia and at photographic conventions for delivering dry-witted,

returning to South Africa a decade later.

insightful talks and lectures on his craft. Part of the appeal lies in his technical agility and his capacity to talk about Photoshop and digital post production as knowledgeably as

The focal point of Yudelman’s career, since his return, has been to produce images extracted from his immediate environment and prompted by the belief that there is enough to talk about in his own back yard.

traditional wet-finger photography. Committed to creating images that

Having been showcased in over seventy exhibitions locally and

penetrate reality, Yudelman remains a close conspirator of the ongoing

internationally, Yudelman’s photographs are held in many private and

advances within the medium. His overriding ethic, regardless of the

corporate collections worldwide.

equipment he is using is: ‘Keep it interesting.’ From the outset, circumstances seemed to pre-empt destiny, with

The work is a consequence of a studied eye, brokered over 30 years of constant image making. Enthralled with the many-layered

photography making an early claim on Yudelman’s soul. As a toddler,

dimensions of reality, his anthology of images is a manifestation of

his nursery doubled as a darkroom for his father, Louis Yudelman.

how modern photography is able to escape the bounds of the ‘record’,

Family legend has it that the residual chemicals from those early days

creating an authentic and evocative account of recent times.

got into his bloodstream, and firmly inculcated a life-long passion for image making.

– Simone Tredoux

6

Dale Pre&Post-FA.indd 6

2012/08/13 8:29 AM


Dale Setting-FA.indd 9

2012/08/06 4:05 PM


10

Dale Setting-FA.indd 10

Electronic information board – Houses of Parliament – Cape Town

2012/08/06 4:16 PM


President Jacob Zuma election poster – Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, Cape Town

Dale Setting-FA.indd 11

11

2012/08/06 4:16 PM


12

Dale Setting-FA.indd 12

Old South African flag on badges – Day of Reconciliation – Voortrekker Monument, Tshwane

2012/08/06 4:16 PM


30

Dale Setting-FA.indd 30

Striking municipal workers loot vendor’s stall – Cape Town

2012/08/06 4:16 PM


Yudelman appears on front page of Cape Times – Cape Town

Dale Setting-FA.indd 31

31

2012/08/06 4:16 PM


32

Dale Setting-FA.indd 32

Newspaper billboards – Cape Town, Johannesburg, Tshwane

2012/08/06 4:17 PM


33

Dale Setting-FA.indd 33

2012/08/06 4:17 PM


116

Dale Setting-FA.indd 116

Arthur Mzingisi – Newspaper House – Cape Town

2012/08/06 4:18 PM


Mthungameli – Boksburg

Dale Setting-FA.indd 117

117

2012/08/06 4:18 PM


118

Dale Setting-FA.indd 118

Security cameras – Hout Bay, Cape Town

2012/08/06 4:18 PM


Air freshener – Voortrekker Monument toilet – Tshwane

Dale Setting-FA.indd 119

119

2012/08/06 4:18 PM


190

Dale Setting-FA.indd 190

Cassette tape – Milnerton fleamarket – Cape Town

2012/08/06 4:20 PM


Musician – Cape Town | Nevis Cameron – Melville, Johannesburg | Derick Mokwena – Johannesburg | Musician – Kalk Bay, Cape Town

Dale Setting-FA.indd 191

191

2012/08/06 4:20 PM


192

Dale Setting-FA.indd 192

Sakie Ndala – Mamelodi

2012/08/06 4:20 PM


Moses Mogale – Jazz musician – Mamelodi

Dale Setting-FA.indd 193

193

2012/08/06 4:20 PM


220

Dale Setting-FA.indd 220

Book – Milnerton fleamarket – Cape Town

2012/08/06 4:21 PM


Nelson Mandela Square – Day of Reconciliation – Sandton City, Johannesburg

Dale Setting-FA.indd 221

221

2012/08/06 4:21 PM


THE

ERNEST COLE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARD

The Ernest Cole Photography Award is a new award in South Africa, initiated under the auspices of the University of Cape Town Libraries, offering a unique opportunity for photographers to complete an existing project. The award, named after documentary photographer Ernest Cole, was made possible by the generous support of the Peter Brown Trust, the Gavin Relly Educational Trust, the Kirsch Family Trust and Orms. Ernest Cole was born in South Africa in 1940 and received his first camera as a gift from a clergyman. Before leaving South Africa in the mid 1960s he worked as a photojournalist for Drum magazine, sharing a darkroom and friendship with photographer Struan Robertson. On his own initiative Cole undertook a comprehensive photographic essay in which he showed what it meant to be black under apartheid. Out of this came the book, The House of Bondage, which was published in New York in 1967, and immediately banned in South Africa. He never returned to South Africa and died in exile in New York in 1990. Cole was a courageous documentarian who at times risked his life to share his imagery with the world. ‘He wasn’t just brave. He wasn’t just enterprising. He was a supremely fine photographer,’ said David Goldblatt, the renowned South African photographer. The Ernest Cole Photography Award has been established to stimulate in-depth photography in South Africa, with an emphasis on creative responses to South African society, human rights and justice. The award is open to anyone whose work looks at South African society, with preference being given to people living within the country. The purpose of the award is to support the realisation of a significant body of work with which the photographer has been engaged. For more information please see www.ernestcoleaward.org. 9

Dale Pre&Post-FA.indd 9

2012/08/13 8:37 AM


This edition first published by Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd in 2012 10 Orange Street Sunnyside Auckland Park 2092 South Africa (+27 11) 628 3200 www.jacana.co.za © 2012 photographs: Dale Yudelman © 2012 text: Simone Tredoux All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-4314-0613-5 Also available as an e-book d-PDF ISBN 978-1-4314-0614-2 Design and layout by mr design Set in TradeGothic 8.5 pt Printed by Ultra Litho, Johannesburg www.daleyudelman.com

Dale Pre&Post-FA.indd 10

2012/08/13 8:39 AM


DALE YUDELMAN dumps the baggage of oversized photographic equipment and heads unbarred into the bottomless aufaitness of the life to which we have

UNDEr DEMocrAcY

IN A DIgItAL worLD rIDDLED wIth UNprEcEDENtED vIsUAL trAffIc, LIfE UNDEr DEMocrAcY Is A provocAtIvE EssAY of coNtrAst AND socIAL coMMENtArY ExEcUtED IN YUDELMAN’s INIMItAbLY EDgY stYLE, IN cohorts wIth NEw-gENErAtIoN tEchNoLogY.

grown accustomed. screaming like motherless newborns, his images smack the life into what we so easily perceive as ordinary… Yudelman delivers a personal, sometimes scathing, and often humorous account of our unruly and evolving democracy. In a digital world riddled with unprecedented visual traffic, Life under Democracy is a provocative essay of

DALE

contrast and social commentary executed

YUDELMAN

in Yudelman’s inimitably edgy style, in cohorts with new-generation technology. A salient social documentary, inoculated against sensationalism, traditionalism and drudgery. A work that invests in the power of smaller moments and features intimate and ‘un-canned’ images of south Africans in their eighteenth year of freedom. A series that speaks with resounding clarity on how the

9 781431 406135

ISBN 978-1-4314-0613-5 www.jacana.co.za

Dale Cover-FA.indd 1

politics of the day filters into reality.

DALE YUDELMAN

2012/08/06 12:37 PM


Life Under Democracy