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Portraits of South Africa

David Goldblatt is among the photographers whose work on South Africa goes on show at the V&A tomorrow

David Goldblatt is just one of 17 photographers whose work goes on show this week at the V&A for an exhibition about the sophisticated photographic culture that has emerged in post-apartheid South Africa.

Goldblatt, who has recently been short-listed for the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award for his Johannesburg Photographs 1948-2010 book, has been photographing his native South Africa since the 1940s.

Images taken by Goldblatt will feature among a collection of 150 works by some of South Africa’s most interesting modern photographers. The images catalogue some of the radical changes that have taken place in the country over the last decade.

“In post-Apartheid South Africa I became acutely aware that little signs were mushrooming on our sidewalks and on our trees and poles advertising all kinds of services: painting, building, tilling, carpentry,” Goldblatt remarked in a recent interview.

“Often these were very crude but there was no question of what was happening… to me this was an indication, at a very day-to-day level, a very mundane level, that liberation had come.”

The exhibition includes other established names like Santu Mofokeng, Pieter Hugo and Zwelethu Mthethwa, as well as a new generation of snappers including Zanele Muholi and Hassan and Husain Essop.

A separate exhibition of Goldblatt’s earlier work taken during the apartheid regime is also on display at the V&A Photography Gallery in order to compliment, and run concurrently with, the Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography show.

“This exhibition will show the range and variety of politically engaged fine art photography arising from a captivating period in South Africa’s history,” co-curator Martin Barnes said.

Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography opens 12 April until 17 July 2011, vam.ac.uk