South Africa
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David Goldblatt

David Goldblatt

South African photographer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro South African photographer
Countries South Africa
Occupations Photographer
A.K.A. Lewis David Goldblatt
Gender male
Birth November 29, 1930 (Randfontein, Randfontein Local Municipality, West Rand District Municipality, Gauteng)
Education University of the Witwatersrand
The details

David Goldblatt (born 29 November 1930) is a South African photographer noted for his portrayal of South Africa during the period of apartheid and more recently that country's landscapes. He has described himself as a “self-appointed observer and critic of the society into which I was born.” He has numerous publications to his name and is held in high esteem, both locally and internationally. He lives in Johannesburg.

Early life

David Goldblatt was born in Randfontein, Gauteng Province, and is the youngest of the three sons of Eli and Olga Goldblatt. His grandparents arrived in South Africa from Lithuania around 1893, having fled the persecution of Jews in the Baltic countries.

Goldblatt worked in his father's men's outfitters, attended Krugersdorp High School, and graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a degree in commerce.

Monochrome photography

Goldblatt began photographing in 1948 and has documented developments in South Africa through the period of apartheid to the present. In Goldblatt's view color photography seemed too sweet a medium in the Apartheid years to express the loathing that it inspired in him. He documented the dreadfully extensive and uncomfortable twice-daily bus trips of black workers who lived in the segregated "homelands" north east of Pretoria in his work The Transported of KwaNdebele. According to Goldblatt, the conditions of South Africa have not changed that much for poor people since apartheid. He also states, "It will take generations to undo the consequences of Apartheid." He continues to photographs of the area including the landscape.

Colour photography

Until the end of the 1990s Goldblatt – in what he calls his personal work – rarely photographed in colour. It was only after working on a project involving blue asbestos in north-western Australia, and the resulting disease and death, that his interest in photographing in colour increased. "That’s when I got hooked on doing work in color," he says. "You can’t make it blue in black and white." This was coupled with new developments in the field of digital scanning and printing. Only when Goldblatt was able to achieve the same "depth" in his colour work that he had previously achieved in his black-and-white photographs, did he choose to explore this field extensively. The result is a blend of Goldblatt’s expertise in the field of classic large-format photography combined with the latest techniques offered by high-end scanners and advanced ink-jet papers, producing images redolent of South Africa’s light and land.

Collections and publications

His work is held in major museum collections worldwide. A solo exhibition of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1998. Interest in Goldblatt’s work increased significantly after the eleventh Documenta (Kassel, 2002), as well as a travelling exhibition of 51 years of his work (Barcelona, 2001). At Documenta two projects were shown: black-and-white work depicting life in the middle-class white community of Boksburg in the 1970s and '80s, as well as examples of later colour work from the series Johannesburg Intersections. The comprehensive retrospective of his work, which opened in the AXA Gallery in New York in 2001, offered an overview of Goldblatt’s photographic oeuvre from 1948–1999. His book, South Africa: The Structure of Things Then, published in 1998, offers an in-depth visual analysis of the relationship between South Africa’s structures and the forces that shaped them, from the country’s early colonial beginnings up until 1990.


Goldblatt cites writers, rather than visual artists, as his major influences. Among these writers are Jillian Becker, Herman Charles Bosman, Nadine Gordimer, Njabulo Ndebele, Ivan Vladislavic and playwright Barney Simon.


  • On the Mines. With Nadine Gordimer. Cape Town: C Struik, 1973. ISBN 0-86977-029-2. (in English)
  • Some Afrikaners Photographed. Johannesburg: Murray Crawford, 1975. (in English)
  • Cape Dutch Homesteads. With Margaret Courtney-Clark and John Kench. Cape Town: C Struik, 1981. ISBN 0-86977-140-X. (in English)
  • In Boksburg. Cape Town: The Gallery Press, 1982. ISBN 0-620-05933-8. (in English)
  • David Goldblatt: Thirty-five years of photographs, April 1983 to January 1984 / Vyf-en-dertig jaar se foto's, April 1983 tot Januarie 1984. Cape Town: South African National Gallery, 1983. Small exhibition catalogue. (in Afrikaans)(in English)
  • Lifetimes: Under Apartheid. With Nadine Gordimer. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1986. ISBN 0-394-55406-X. London: Cape, 1986. ISBN 0-224-02870-7. (in English)
  • South Africa. London: The Photographers' Gallery, 1986. ISBN 0-907879-07-1. Small exhibition catalogue. (in English)
  • The Transported of KwaNdebele: A South African Odyssey. With Brenda Goldblatt and Phillip van Niekerk. New York: Aperture Books, 1989. ISBN 0-89381-366-4, ISBN 0-89381-385-0. (in English)
  • South Africa: The Structure of Things Then. Cape Town: Oxford University Press 1998. ISBN 0-19-571631-0. New York: Monacelli, 1998. ISBN 1-58093-026-3. With an essay by Neville Dubow. (in English)
  • David Goldblatt. Phaidon 55. London: Phaidon, 2001. ISBN 0-7148-4051-3. With text by Lesley Lawson. (in English)
  • David Goldblatt Fifty-One Years. Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2001. ISBN 84-95273-78-0. (in English)
  • Particulars. Johannesburg: Goodman Gallery, 2003. ISBN 0-620-30659-9. ("Prix du Livre ", XVIe Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie Arles 2004)
  • David Goldblatt – Intersections. Munich: Prestel, 2005. ISBN 3-7913-3247-3.
  • David Goldblatt – Photographs. Rome: Contrasto, 2006. ISBN 88-6965-015-4.
  • David Goldblatt – Some Afrikaners Revisited. With Antjie Krog and Ivor Powell. Cape Town: Umuzi, 2007. ISBN 1-4152-0025-4 (paper), ISBN 1-4152-0026-2 (hard). Revised and augmented edition of Some Afrikaners Photographed (1975).
  • David Goldblatt: Photographs: Hasselblad Award 2006. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz; Göteburg: Hasselblad Foundation, 2006. ISBN 3-7757-1917-2.
  • David Goldblatt: Südafrikanische Fotografien 1952–2006. Winterthur: Christoph Merian Verlag, 2007. ISBN 3-85616-294-1. (in German)
  • Intersections Intersected. Porto: Civilização Editoria; Fundação Serralves, 2008. ISBN 972-739-201-6. With text by Ulrich Loock and Ivor Powell. (in English)
  • Intersecções intersectadas. Porto: Civilização Editoria; Fundação Serralves, 2008. ISBN 972-739-200-8, ISBN 972-26-2765-1. With text by Ulrich Loock and Ivor Powell. (in Portuguese)
  • In Boksburg. Books on Books 7. New York: Errata Editions, 2010. ISBN 1-935004-12-3. (in English) A reduced-size facsimile of the 1982 book, with an essay by Joanna Lehan.
  • Kith Kin & Khaya: South African Photographs. Johannesburg: Goodman Gallery, 2010. ISBN 0-9869749-0-0, ISBN 0-9869749-1-9. (in English) Catalogue of the exhibition at the Jewish Museum, New York, 2010, and at the South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town, 2010–2011.
  • TJ / Double Negative: Johannesburg Photographs 1948–2010. Cape Town: Umuzi, 2010. ISBN 1-4152-0128-5. Contrasto Due, 2011. ISBN 88-6965-218-1. (in English) Two books in a box: TJ is a book of photographs by Goldblatt, Double Negative a novel by Ivan Vladislavić. (Best Photography Book, Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Awards 2011)
  • TJ / Johannesburg fotografie 1948–2010 / Doppia negazione. With Ivan Vladislavic. Contrasto, 2010. ISBN 978-88-6965-262-2. (in Italian)
  • TJ. Arles: Actes Sud, 2011. ISBN 88-6965-271-8. (in French)
  • David Goldblatt, Photographers' References, 2014. ISBN 978-2-9543839-1-0 (in English). An in depth interview led by Baptiste Lignel.


Solo exhibitions

  • David Goldblatt. Photographers' Gallery, London, 1974.
  • David Goldblatt. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1975.
  • Photography Place, Sydney, 1975.
  • David Goldblatt. Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa, 1977.
  • David Goldblatt. Market Theatre galleries, Johannesburg, 1978.
  • Johannesburg Art Gallery, 1983.
  • Pretoria Art Gallery, Pretoria, 1983.
  • David Goldblatt. South African National Gallery, Cape Town, 1983.
  • David Goldblatt. Side Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1985.
  • David Goldblatt. Photographers' Gallery, London, 1986.
  • Photographs from South Africa. Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998.
  • David Goldblatt. Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam, 1998.
  • David Goldblatt. South African National Gallery, Cape Town, 1999.
  • Structures. Johannesburg Art Gallery, to November 1999.
  • In Boksburg. Krings-Ernst Galerie, Cologne, October 2001 – January 2002.
  • Fifty-One Years, Axa Gallery, New York, 2001; Centro Cultural de Belém, Belém, Lisbon, 2002–2003; Johannesburg Art Gallery, 2005; MACBA, Barcelona (organiser), February–May 2002; Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2002; Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, February–March 2003; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, April–June 2003; Lenbachhaus, Munich, July–November 2003; Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography, Johannesburg, July–November 2004.
  • Krings-Ernst Galerie, Cologne, 2002.
  • Mostly unseen. Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2002.
  • Intersections. Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, October 2003; Michael Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg, 2005. museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf, June–August 2005; Camera Austria, Graz, November 2005 – February 2006. Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, March–May 2007; Berkeley Art Museum, July–August 2007.
  • Asbestos. Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, October 2003.
  • Particulars & Rural South Africa. Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, October–November 2003.
  • Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris, 2004.
  • David Goldblatt. Galerie des Franciscains, Le Grand Café, Centre d'art contemporain, Saint-Nazaire, November–December 2004.
  • David Goldblatt. Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid, May–July 2005.
  • David Goldblatt. Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2005.
  • Rencontres d'Arles, Eglise Sainte-Anne, Arles, 2006.
  • Some Afrikaners Revisited. Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, October–November 2006.
  • Hasselblad Award Winner 2006. Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, November 2006 – January 2007.
  • Hasselblad Award 2006. Fotografins Hus, Stockholm, February–March 2007.
  • Photographs. Forma, Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan, June–August 2007.
  • Südafrikanische Fotografien 1952–2006. Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, March–May 2007.
  • Selected works. Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris, May–June 2007. Showing the series Particulars
  • Winner of Hasselblad Award 2006. Brandts Museet for Fotokunst, Odense, September–November 2007.
  • David Goldblatt – Photographs of the last decade. Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, 2008.
  • David Goldblatt. Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam, October–December 2008.
  • David Goldblatt. Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Serralves Foundation), Porto, 2008.
  • Joburg. Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2008.
  • David Goldblatt. Västeras Konstmuseum, Västerås, 2008.
  • Intersections Intersected. Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, 2008; Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, December 2008 – February 2009; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City, July–October 2009; Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, February–May 2009; University Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2011.
  • Fietas. Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2009.
  • In the time of AIDS. Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid, 2009.
  • In Boksburg. Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, February–April 2009.
  • Some Afrikaners revisited. Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, 2009.
  • Particulars. Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York City, April–June 2010.
  • South African Photographs: David Goldblatt. Jewish Museum, New York, May–September 2010.
  • Kith, Kin & Kaya. South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town, 2010.
  • TJ: Some things old, some things new and some much the same. Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, October–November 2010.
  • 'TJ', 1948–2010. Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, January–April 2011.
  • Selected works. Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris, January–February 2011.

Selected group exhibitions

  • South Africa: the Cordoned Heart, South Africa and the USA, 1986.
  • 1. Johannesburg Biennial, Johannesburg, 1995.
  • Contemporary Art from South Africa, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 1996.
  • In/Sight, African Photographers, 1940 to the Present. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1996.
  • Blank_ Architecture, Apartheid and After. Rotterdam and Berlin, 1998.
  • Home. Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 2000.
  • Rhizomes of Memory, Three South African Photographers. With George Hallett and Santu Mofokeng. Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, 2000.
  • Eye-Africa, Revue Noir. Cape Town, Europe and the USA, 2000.
  • The Short Century – Befreiungsbewegungen in Afrika. Villa Stuck, Munich, 2001.
  • Haus der Kulturen der Welt im Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2001.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2001.
  • P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, 2001.
  • Head North. Bildmuseet, Umeå, 2001.
  • documenta 11. Kassel, 2002.
  • Shock. Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 2002.
  • Strangers: The first ICP triennial of photography and video. International Center of Photography, New York, September–November 2003.
  • Citigroup Photography Prize 2004. Photographers' Gallery, London, January–March 2004. With Robert Adams, Peter Fraser and Joel Sternfeld.
  • Citigroup Photography Prize 2004. museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf, May–August 2004.
  • Fotografie aus Südafrika. Galerie Christine König, Vienna, May–July 2004. With Santu Mofokeng and Zwelethu Mthethwa.
  • History, Memory, Society. With Henri Cartier-Bresson and Lee Friedlander. Tate Modern, London, 2004.
  • Eye Spy: Photography from the Permanent Collection. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, USA, September 2004 – January 2005.
  • Faces in the Crowd – Picturing Modern Life from Manet to Today. Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 2004–2005.
  • Faces in the Crowd – Picturing Modern Life from Manet to Today. Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, 2005.
  • Unsettled: 8 South African photographers. National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen, November 2004 – February 2005.
  • Afrika Remix. Zeitgenössische Kunst eines Kontinents. museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf, July–November 2004.
  • Africa Remix. Hayward Gallery, London, February–April 2005.
  • Africa Remix: l'Art contemporain d'un continent. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, May–August 2005.
  • Africa Remix. Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, May–August 2006.
  • Africa Remix. Moderna Museet, Stockholm, October 2006 – January 2007
  • documenta 12. Kassel, June–September 2007.
  • South African Photography 1950–2010. Johannesburg Art Gallery, 2010.
  • 29th São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, September–December 2010. With Moshekwa Langa and Kendell Geers.
  • 54th Venice Biennale, ILLUMInations, 2011.
  • An exhibition of Goldblatt's photographs from the collection held by the Victoria and Albert Museum shown alongside group exhibition Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011.
  • Appropriated Landscapes: Contemporary African Art from the Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany, 2011–2012.
  • Revolution vs Revolution, Beirut Art Center, 2012.

Awards (selected)

  • 1987: Hallmark Fellow at the Aspen Conference in Design, Aspen, Colorado
  • 1992: Gahan Fellow in Photography at Harvard University
  • 1995: Camera Austria Award of the City of Graz for Contemporary Photography
  • 2001: Honorary Doctor in Fine Arts, University of Cape Town
  • 2006: Hasselblad Award – Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography
  • 2007: Honorary Doctor of Literature, University of the Witwatersrand
  • 2007: Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society
  • 2009: HCB Award, Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation
  • 2010: Lucie Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, Lucie Foundation
  • 2011: Order of Ikhamanga (Silver) (awarded, but declined by Goldblatt in protest over the Protection of State Information Bill)
  • 2011: Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts San Francisco Art Institute

Collections (selected)

Goldblatt's work is held in the following permanent public collections:

  • Durban Art Gallery
  • Johannesburg Art Gallery
  • University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
  • South African National Gallery, Cape Town
  • University of South Africa, Pretoria
  • Constitutional Court, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
  • museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
  • fnac (Fonds national d'art contemporain), Paris
  • MACBA, Barcelona
  • Photographers' Gallery, London
  • National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
  • Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego
  • Getty Center Los Angeles, Los Angeles
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