many letters mailed all over the world had
produced few results and it was 'door to
door' time. I had placed the loose collection
of prints on Dexter Tiranti's table at the
New Internationalist Magazine in Oxford.
I remember Dexter's letter the following
year, regretting that he could only use
six images from our agency, as the selection
already had too much from Bangladesh. That
started a long relationship between our
organizations and led to my involvement
in Southern Exposure, a platform, like Drik,
for promoting photographers from the majority
world. The Net has helped, but most of our
contacts have come from information gleaned
on motorbike rides down the back streets
of Hanoi, or a meeting in a paddy field
outside Beijing, or a visit to a museum
in Tehran or similar opportunities for meeting
photographers, whom I would not have come
across in the mainstream directories. I
remember excitedly going through boxes of
prints that only fellow photographers or
close friends had seen. Of newly found friends
telling me of people I must meet. Friends
from the Drikpartnership, students, colleagues
at other agencies and at World Press Photo.
Friends, who like us, have believed in the
plurality of image sources and have been
active in trying to bring about a change.
images too have been different. These are
not the 'developmental images' extolling
the virtue of the latest World Bank fix,
or the 'news' images that choose not to
see beyond editorial briefs. The abandon
of the flutist in Bangladesh or a 'sweet
fifteen' dance in Peru, or the careless
joy of the children on the branch of a tree
in South Africa represent a personal involvement
of the photographer, and a relationship
with the photographed, often missing in
the 'big stories' that the major agencies
send their photographers to 'capture'. Little
of what you will see here is newsworthy
to mainstream media. No hype reaffirms the
success of a particular development plan.
It is revealing that these majority world
photographers have an insight and a sensibility
that is strikingly different from that of
their big name visitors. It is telling that
an altogether different story emerges when
a different pair of eyes is behind the lens.
In their own back yard, they see a different
grew up in Mmabatho, a small town about 350
kilometres from Johannesburg. My original
interest was in film and television. Due to
the race restrictions at the time, I wasn't
allowed to get there. So I applied to study
photography instead, mainly because it was
offered in several institutions, some of which
were not in support of the apartheid system.
When I began my course in Cape Town in 1992
I did not know that memories from my childhood
would return with such clarity. It felt like
I had a calling to make the past live forever
in real images.
were few black female photographers - less
than 10. It was not very safe for any photographer,
regardless of gender and race. It was a criminal
offence to be found in possession of photographic
images that carried any political message.
Many media workers were regularly locked up,
while others went into exile. As a result,
my generation was left without any role models.
I devote my time and energy to popularizing
the profession among other women, especially
those who lack self-esteem, and to plough
back the knowledge I have gained by making
a difference in someone's life.