Jürgen Schadeberg | Review



Holland Cotter, “ART IN REVIEW: Drum Beat, South Africa, 1950–1994,” The New York Times, April 13, 2001

In 1950 the Berlin-born photographer Jürgen Schadeberg, then 19, traveled to Johannesburg, looking for a job. He found one on a new magazine called Drum, which during the years of apartheid was South Africa’s leading lifestyle monthly, with editions throughout the conti-nent as well as in North America and the Caribbean.
The magazine recorded South Africa’s vibrant urban life and its growing political repression. As pic-ture editor and chief photographer, Mr. Schadeberg was in charge of training a young, mostly African staff, which included Bob Gosani (1934-1972), Peter Magubane and Gopal Naransamy, all of whom be-came renowned photojournalists.
The Axis show focuses on work done by Mr. Schadeberg himself from 1951 to the early 1960’s. At the time, South African popular culture was much influenced by the United States. In a 1954 picture, a jubilant Hugh Masekela at the beginning of his career cradles a trumpet sent to him as a gift from Louis Armstrong. In a photo from 1955, Miriam Makeba is seen onstage around the time she made her first recordings with a local band called the Manhattan brothers.

Because censorship was a constant threat, Drum had to be discreet In its coverage, but Mr. Schade-berg’s eye didn’t miss a thing. He documented the removal of black residents from Sophiatown to make way for a whites-only suburb named Triumph. He photographed the mass funeral after the Sharpeville Massacre. And he ran afoul of the law more than once. During a Drum cover shoot of the film star and blues sing-er Dolly Rathebe, both he and Ms. Rathebe were arrested on suspicion of breaking the Immorality Act, which outlawed interracial sex.

In the early 1960’s Mr. Schadeberg moved to London, where he edited Creative Camera magazine; in 1979 he taught photography at the New School in Manhattan. In 1985 he returned to Johannesburg to live, and the show takes him full circle: the first picture Is his 1952 portrait of Nelson Mandela in his law office; the last is of Mr. Mandela revisiting his prison cell on Robben Island in 1994. Mr. Schadeberg has produced several books and films. (They are sold at the gallery, which specializes in art from South Africa and about it.) Although he missed the opening of his first New York solo show because of ill health, he may still be able to visit during its run. It would be great if he could see this small but highly spirited tribute to his brilliant career.