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Gideon Mendel is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading contemporary photographers. His intimate style of image making, and long-term commitment to projects has earned him international acclaim. Born in Johannesburg in 1959, he studied Psychology and African History at the University of Cape Town. He began photographing in the 1980s during the final years of apartheid. It was his work as a ‘struggle photographer’ at this time that first brought his work to global attention. 

In the early 1990s he moved to London, from where he has continued to respond to social issues globally. One of the major focuses of his work soon became the issue of HIV/AIDS. This journey began in Africa and has expanded to many parts of the world over the last twenty years. The concluding and ongoing chapter, Through Positive Eyes, is a collaborative project in which Mendel’s role has shifted from photographer to enabler, handing the camera over to HIV positive people.

Since 2020 Mendel has been working on Burning World, in response to the unprecedented increase in the extremity of wildfires around the world as our global temperatures rise. In 2020 Mendel travelled to Australia, and in 2021 to Canada, Greece, and the USA (the latter two which he revisited in 2022) to document the aftermath of fires that had destroyed homes, killed numerous people and burnt millions of acres of land. As in his earlier series, Drowning World, Mendel choose not to document the burning flames, but rather to seek out their aftermath, to capture the destruction and loss. “These portraits are made across different communities and cultures around the world. His subjects engage directly with the camera, looking out from their devastated lives. While their poses may seem conventional, the context is catastrophe, and their gazes are unsettling. They are not disempowered victims: in their encounter with the camera they invite us to engage with the calamity that has befallen them, bearing witness to the impacts of climate change which will be so much worse unless meaningful action is taken.”

Since 2007, Mendel has been working on Drowning World, an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to climate change. This work has been noted for its unusual use of portraiture, as well as its combination of photography with video pieces. 

Mendel has worked for many leading magazines—amongst them National Geographic, Fortune Magazine, Condé Naste Traveller, Geo, The Independent Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, L’Express, Stern and Rolling Stone. 

His first book, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa was published in 2001. Since then he has produced a number of photographic advocacy projects, working with charities and campaigning organizations including The Global Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières, Treatment Action Campaign, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Action Aid, the Terrene Higgins Trust, Shelter, Leonard Cheshire International, UNICEF and Concern Worldwide. 

His work is increasingly being seen in a variety of gallery contexts, with some of his earliest work from South Africa included in the ongoing Rise and Fall of Apartheid touring exhibition. Drowning World has featured prominently at the ICP Triennial and Picture Windows installations in New York, as well as in numerous other public installations and galleries.

Amongst many accolades, Mendel has won the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, six World Press Photo Awards, first prize in the Pictures of the Year competition, a POY Canon Photo Essayist Award and the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism. In 2015 he was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Award (Disorder) for Drowning World. In 2016 he was the first recipient of The Pollock-Krasner Foundation’s “Pollock Prize for Creativity”.


b. August 31, 1959, Johannesburg, South Africa

Bachelor of Arts, University of Cape Town. Majors: Psychology, Sociology and African Economic History

The International Centre of Photography (ICP), New York, USA
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA

North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, USA
Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame, IN, USA
Wheaton College Permanent Collection, Norton, MA, USA
The South African National Gallery (SANG), South Africa
Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) South Africa
WAM (Wits Art Museum)
Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles, France


Finalist Sony World Photography Awards. Professional competition, Environment
Winner Head On Portrait Award, Australia
Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK
Shortlist for Prix Pictet Award, 2019 (Hope)
Shortlist for Oscar Barnack Award

Greenpeace Photo Award (Jury Prize)
Pollock Prize for Creativity
Shortlist for Prix Pictet Award
Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism
World Press Photo: Honorable Mention, Daily Life
World Press Photo: 2nd Prize, Arts and Entertainment
Nikon Press Award: 1st Prize, Storie
World Press Photo: 1st Prize, Nature Storie
World Press Photo: 1st Prize, General News Stories
W. Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography
World Press Photo: 2nd Prize, Nature Stories
Pictures of the Year: 1st Prize, Photo Essay
World Press Photo: 1st Prize, Sports Stories
World Press Photo: 2nd Prize, People in the News stories

Second Nature: Photography in the Age of the Anthropocene; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA, Oct. 6, 2023 – March 3, 2024; Anchorage Museum, Alaska, April 8 – July 28, 2024; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC, Aug. 28, 2024 to mid-Jan. 2025.


Flood and Fire; Our Fragile Planet, ARTCO Gallery, Berlin Germany
Freedom or Death, ARTCo Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

Water and Climate Crisis: Gideon Mendel’s Drowning World. Oak Institute for Human Rights, Colby College, Waterville, ME. USA
Drowning World,  Artco, Aachen, Germany. Sep. 28
Through Positive Eyes, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. USA. Sep. 15, 209 – Feb. 16, 2020

The World to Come. Samuel P Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL USA. September 18, 2018

The Ward, Fitzrovia Chapel, London
Drowning World at Kaunas Photo, Lithuania
Gideon Mendel: Drowning World. Wits Art Museum, (WAM) Johannesburg. South Africa. 17 Oct 2017 – 25 February 2018
Drowning World at Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles, France. Curated by Mark Sealy. July 3 – September 24, 2017
Dzhangal Autograph, ABP, Rivington Place, London

Drowning World. LagosPhoto, Nigeria. Oct 22 – Nov. 21, 2016
Drowning World: Gideon Mendel, Outdoor Installation along the Red Cross River, Michigan State University
Drowning World: Gideon MendelEli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University
Solo booth, Axis Gallery, Art Photo, Budapest
Solo booth, Axis Gallery, 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair, London

Drowning World-UK, Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth
Drowning World (Video and Stills), Lianzhou Festival, China
Drowning World billboard exhibition, Paris

Public installation of Drowning World, in the Queen’s Park subway station in Toronto (part of the Contacting Toronto Festival), curated by Sharon Switzer
Living in Yeoville Revisited, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg

Drowning World, curated by Christine Eyene Tiwani Contemporary
The ‘Picture Windows’ installation on the 13 windows of the ICP on 43rd Street in New York
Outdoor Installation. Part of the ‘After Photography’ festival in Montevideo

Drowning World, Somerset House East Wing Gallery.

Kingsmead Eyes (collaboration with pupils from Kingsmead School), V&A Museum of Childhood

A Broken Landscape and Facing AIDS, South African National Gallery
A Broken Landscape and Facing AIDS, Museum Africa

A Broken Landcape (HIV and AIDS in Africa), Oxo Tower Gallery (touring)

HIV and AIDS in Africa, The Spitalfields Gallery

Beloofde Land (Promised Land), Market Photo Gallery, Johannesburg

Living in Yeoville, Market Photo Gallery, Johannesburg 

Images of the Struggle, Market Photo Gallery, Johannesburg


TERRITORIAL: The Land and Us. February — April 2023, Stove Works, Chattanooga, TN

Gideon Mendel: Fire / Flood, The Photographers’ Gallery, London. November 25, 2022 — September, 2023
Coal and Ice. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
March 15 – April 22, 2022

HIV/AIDS, the epidemic is not over! MUCEM, (Musee des civilisations et de la Mediterranee) Marseilles, France. December 15, 2021 to May, 2022

The World to Come: Art in the Age of the Anthropocene. DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, IL. March 19 – August 16, 2020

Prix Pictet shortlisted artists exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. United Kingdom. 14 Nov – 8 Dec. 2019.
The World to Come: Art in the Age of the Anthropocene, the Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, USA
Through Positive Eyes, The Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Coal and Ice, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA, USA   

RAY 2018. Frankfurt am Main, Germany, May 24 – Sep 9, 2018
Drowning World. UP: Kyotographie, 6th Edition, International Photography Festival, Kyoto, Japan. April 14 –  May 13, 2018
Our Anthropocene: Eco Crises. Center for Book Arts, New York. January 19 – March 31, 2018

Liquid State, Axis Gallery, New York. Sep 21 – Oct 21, 2017
Bending the Frame, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, New York
Through Positive Eyes. Durban Art Gallery and touring
Still unresolved and very much ongoing
Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, London, U
Drowning World, Les Recontres de la Photographie, Arles

Drowning World at The Edge of the Earth: Climate Change in Photography and Video. Ryerson Image Center, Toronto
The Water Chapters at ‘Weather or Not’ (The art of Climate Change) MU Gallery, Eindhoven, Holland
Bending the Frame, Copenhagen Fotografisk Center, Denmark
Drowning World. TheOneFest, Goa, India. Exhibition and the artist will hold a masterclass November 21 – December 3, 2016
Points of Departure, Estuary 2016, Tilbury Cruise Terminal, UK.  September 17-30
Constellations. Arc en rêve centre d’architecture, Bodeaux, France. June 2 – September 25
Next Flood, 38CC, Delft, Netherlands
Vanishing Beauty, Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center , Portsmouth, VA
Another Better World, Bascom Art Center, Highlands, North Carolina
Constellations. Arc en rêve centre d’architecture, Bodeaux, France. June 2- September 25
Prix Pictet Exhibtion, Disorder, Somerset House, United, Kingdom, MAXXI Museum, Rome, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris.

The Freer and Sackler Gallery, Lost World. Video Art by Charles Lim and Gideon Mendel
Double Negative Galery, Times of Struggle (UK and South Africa) with David Hoffman
Anderson Gallery at VCU, Forecast

ICP Triennail, A Differrent Kind of Order

ICP, Haus der Kunst and Museum Africa, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid
The Museum Africa (and touring in South Africa), The ART Show
The ART Show 
Smithsonian Folklife Festival, The National Mall. 

The Castle, Iziko Museum of Cape Town, Not Alone

Lucy Florence Art Gallery, Los Angeles, 13 Love Stories

The Fowler Museum (and touring), Make Art Stop AIDS
Cento Banimex, Mexico City, Historias Positivas and Art Moves

International Center of Photography, The Body at Risk

Photographers Gallery, Positive Lives


Freedom or Death (with David Gere), GOSTBooks.

The World to Come: Art in the Age of the Anthropocene. Kerry Oliver-Smith (ed.) Samuel P Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida. 2018

The Ward, Trolley Books, 2017

Dzhangal: Gideon MendelGost Books, 2017

A Broken Landscape: HIV and AIDS in Africa (edited by Chris Boot)


The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Australia Fires
The Guardian, 2 Metres, Masked Portraits on Ridley Road
Huck Magazine, Freedom or Death
El PAÎS Semanal, Freedom or Death
M Magazine of Le Monde, Freedom or Death

Aperture Magazine, The Watermarks from the Drowning World series
MarieClaore Magazine. Drowning World

Geo Magazine. Drowning World
Foam Magazine. Drowning World
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Fires in California
Fotografi (Norway) Drowning World

6 Mois, Drowning World
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Floods in Texas and Florida

ARTAfrica, Filming But Drowning
Vrij Nederland, Drowning World
Museé Magazine, Chaos issue. Drowning World

National Geographic, Drowning World
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Migrants on Crossing the Med
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Drowning World

The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Three Feet High and Rising

The Independent on Sunday Magazine, Drowning World
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Tacloban Disaster

Through Positive Eyes website:

Kingsmead Eyes Speak website:

The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Forgotten, But Not Gone (Pakistan Floods)

The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Proposition 8, Gay Couples in California
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Think Positive

German Geo, Memory Boxes for HIV/AIDS
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Flooding in Haiti

The Guardian G2, From Mother to Child
Equal Treatment, Children and HIV
The Guardian G2, A Tale of Two Floods

The Guardian G2, Soweto, 30 Years After the Uprising
The Guardian G2, The Memory Box Project
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, I Look Like my Mother (Pantomime Dames)
The Observer Magazine, Happy Days (Multiculturalism in a Hackney School)

The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Eight Women, One Voice
National Geographic, Living With AIDS
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, An Answer in Africa

The Guardian Weekend Magazine, The Children Left Behind
The Sunday Times Magazine, Violated and Isolated (Rwanda Women and HIV)
Living Proof publication. 10th Anniversary of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance

The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Salvation is Cheap
Positive Nation, Facing AIDS in South Africa
National Geographic, A Land Possessed (Land Issues in Zimbabwe)

HIV Treatment Activist Poster Set made with MSF and TAC in South Africa
The Guardian Weekend Magazine. Looking AIDS in the Face

The Guardian Weekend Magazine, The Life Savers

Guardian Weekend Magazine, While the World Looks Away
L’Express, Le Sida en Afrique

Poster Campaign for the Terence Higgins Trust, Fighting Stigma
POZ Magazine, AIDS in Africa
The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Israel, State of the Nation

Reportage Magazine Booklet, A Broken Landscape

Reportage Magazine. Troubled Waters
Conde Naste Traveller. Lost Tribe of the Kalahari
Focus Magazine, AIDS in Africa

Grands Reportages, Koyasan, Japanese Village of Temples
Independent Magazine, Days of Empire
Fortune Magazine, Young Americans in Vietna
Independent on Sunday Magazine, The New Black Mayor of Ventersdorp
Greenpeace Magazine (Germany). Senegalese Fishing Village

Photographers International, British Photography
Das Magazin, King Goodwill Zwelithini
Reportage Magazine, Claremont Road
Claremont Road, A Festival of Resistance Publication
The Open Book. Publication for Crisis at Christmas (for the homeless)

Christian Aid Poster Campaign, We Believe in Life Before Death
Reportage Magazine, De Aar Elections

The Independent Magazine, An Everyday Occurrence (Zimbabwe Hospital HIV)
The Independent Magazine, A High School in Sowet
Tempo, AIDS Ward, Middlesex Hospital
Telegraph Magazine, The death of the Zambian Football Team

Tempo, The Crisis of Somalia
Tempo, London’s Homeless
Merian, Portrait of Johannesburg
The Independent Magazine, Paradise Lost (Return after Forced Removals)

The Independent Magazine, The Black Jews of Israel

Leadership Magazine, Promised Land
The Observer Magazine, The British Who Choose South Africa

Leadership Magazine, Living in Yeoville

Stern Magazine, 
Forbidden Photos from South Africa
Beyond the Barricades (Popular Resistance in South Africa)

Leadership Magazine, Lines of Sight (Images of the Struggle)


Deluge, five-channel video from Drowning World exhibitions at Kyotographie, Japan, MOCA Jacksonville, FL, PhotFest Gallery & The Institute of Humanities Gallery, UMICH, USA

Water Chapters, part of Drowning World exhibition in Arles, France

Water Chapters, part of Drowning World exhibition. Elia and Edythe Broad Art Museum, MSU

Water, Chapters 10 and 11 was shown at the Plymouth Arts Centre as part of my Drowning World-UK show
Installation with a two-channel projection of Water, Chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9 facing Water, Chapters 10, 11 and 12 was shown at the Lianzhou Festival, China

Water, Chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9 was shown at the Freer and Sackler Gallery in Washington

Water, Chapters 6 and 7 was shown as part of the ICP Triennial in New York and at Tiwnai Contemporary in London

Through Positive Eyes, a short film is shown as part of the opening plenary session of the 2012 Global HIV/AIDS Conference in Washington
Living in Yeoville was commissioned by curator Okwui Ewenzor for the Rise and Fall of Apartheid exhibition-a contemporary re-examination of documentary projects from the 1980s

Kingsmead Eyes Speak, a film made with pupils from Kingsmead Primary School was shown at the Open Cities Documentary Festival and the East End Film Festival in London
Living with Floodwaters, a short video about flooding in Bangkok was shown on MSNBC and is voted a ‘staff pic’ on Vimeo

Kingsmead Eyes, a film made with pupils from Kingsmead Primary School was shown at the V&A Museum of Childhood and at the New York Photo Festival

A short film about AIDS orphans in Swaziland was broadcast on BBC Newsnight

The Harsh Divide, a series of four short animated films about access to HIV Treatment were broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK


Master Class, Gideon Mendel – Memory and Materiality, Kyotographie, April 15-16, 2018
Palo Alto Photography Forum, Lecture series, Palo Alto, CA

Representing the Calais ‘Jungle’, Autograph, ABP, Rivington Place, London. An artist tour, book launch and dialogue

Bending the Frame, conference in conjunction with exhibition, Copenhagen Fotografisk Center, Denmark
Artist talk in conjunction with Axis Gallery exhibit, Art Photo, Budapest

Taught a workshop at Wits Art School in Johannesburg

Taught a workshop at the ICP School in New York

2009 – 2011
Photographer in Residence at Kingsmead Primary School, where I led two major collaborative teaching projects: Kingsmead Eyes and Kingsmead Eyes Speak:

2008 – 2014
Co-director of the global Through Positive Eyes project, working with groups of HIV positive people who photograph their own lives:

Taught at the World Press Photo Masterclass

Taught three workshops at the MAZ Institute in Lucerne