David Goldblatt Tate Modern
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The photographs of David Goldblatt are featured in the Tate's "Artist and Society" wing.
This wing is concerned with the ways in which artists engage with social ideals and historical realities. Though some artists associated modernism with a utopian vision, art has also provided a mirror to contemporary society, sometimes raising awareness about urgent issues or arguing for change. Whether through traditional media or moving images, abstraction or figuration, militancy or detached observation, all the artworks in this wing highlight aspects of the social reality in which they were made, and try to generate a reaction and convey a more or less explicit message to their publics.
David Goldblatt, born in 1930, came from a white Jewish family. He began taking photographs in 1948. That year saw the start of apartheid in South Africa, a policy of racial discrimination and segregation.
As a young photographer, Goldblatt set out to capture ‘the underbelly of the society that underlay South Africa’. He explained: ‘to understand it visually, I also had to get a grasp on the history of the country. So I did a degree, which included courses in English and economic history. This taught me how to think and understand what was happening around me.’ His images reflect this desire to understand the full context behind what is depicted.
Goldblatt rarely photographed scenes of violent oppression or of protest against apartheid. Instead, he explored ‘the values and conditions that gave rise to the events’. This display brings together three bodies of work that reflect this approach: Structures, begun in 1961, Particulars, which he started in 1975 and The Transported of KwaNdebele 1983–4.