“…with the so-called civilised workers, almost without exception their civilisation was only skin deep.”
O. Pirow, quoting South African Prime Minister J. B. M. Hertzog
For this book Santu Mofokeng collected private photographs which urban black working and middle-class families in South Africa commissioned between 1890 and 1950, a time when the government was creating policies towards thosedesignated as “natives”. Painterly in style, the images evoke the artifices of Victorian photography. Some of them are fiction, a creation of the artist in terms of setting, props, clothing and pose – yet there is no evidence of coercion. We believe these images, as they reveal something about how these people imagined themselves. In this work Mofokeng analyses the sensibilities, aspirations and self-image of the black population and its desire for representation and social recognition in times of colonial rule and suppression.The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890–1950 is drawn from an ongoing research project of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.