David Goldblatt was born in Randfontein, South Africa, in 1930. Since the early 1960s, Goldblatt has been photographing the people, landscapes, and architectural structures of South Africa, using photography as a means of social criticism. Chronicling South Africa during apartheid, Goldblatt’s powerful monochrome photographs reveal the stark contrast between the lives of Blacks and Whites as well as the ways that public structures have manifested the citizens’ self-image.
Inspired by the photography in magazines such as Life and Picture Post, Goldblatt began his career photographing the desperate lives of Black African miners during the initial years of apartheid. Raised Jewish, Goldblatt was both fascinated and fearful of the anti-Jewish and anti-Black movement by White right-wing Afrikaners. He critically probed Afrikaner privilege in his series In Boksburg, demonstrating the extraordinary contradictions and complexities of apartheid. Since the 1980s, his Structures series has examined the ways that architecture reflected the country’s changing politics. More recently, Goldblatt has explored urban and rural landscapes in his work.
David Goldblatt received an honorary doctorate in fine arts at the University of Cape Town (2001). His awards and residencies include the Infinity Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center for Photography, New York (2013); Henri Cartier-Bresson Award (2009); Lifetime Achievement Award, Arts and Culture Trust (2009); and Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (2006). He has had major exhibitions at Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018); Minneapolis Institute of Art (2014); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012); Barbican Centre, London (2012); Venice Biennale (2011); Jewish Museum, New York (2010); New Museum, New York (2009); documenta 12 (2007); documenta 11 (2002); and Museum of Modern Art (1998). In 1989, he founded the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg. Goldblatt lives and works in Johannesburg.