Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Alf Khumalo, RIP. I love happy endings.

Not much blogging juice this week, but I wanted to post a brief RIP to Alf Khumalo, who died yesterday (Monday Oct 21st) aged 82. If you're not South African you've probably never heard of him, but you've definitely seen his photographs. They're all those iconic black and white ones of Mandela in the 1950's, and of riots in the 60's. I'm not going to post them here because they're mostly owned by AFP and big photo agencies tend to be a bit sticky about their property. So just google them yourselves, please, (or watch this slideshow) and you'll be surprised at how many of those famous photos were taken by the same guy.

Anyway, this is Alf. Looks awesome, doesn't he? And clearly had taste in hats. I'm not going to say sad stuff about him because when you've had an amazing life and died at 82 that isn't a reason for sadness, it's a reason for celebration. I also know that people in South Africa hate a maudlin funeral.

This also touches on something I want to write a longer blogpost about soon, which is how reluctant many so-called 'progressive' or 'liberal' people are to admit that sometimes things do really get better. They prefer wailing and beating themselves up. And Alf Khumalo is sort of relevant to that. Because if you're not in South Africa, you'll probably recognise his iconic photographs, which are of racial violence, and oppression.

Now, I could shake my head and say how terrible all that was. I could say it's a shame that Khumalo, who took such iconic images, wasn't as famous as other news photographers like Don McCullin or Tim Page. I could point out that that's because he took photographs of Africa, and not of the suffering and disintegration of the American Empire. I could rant a bit about the unfairness of all that, easily, if I felt like it.

I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to point out that Khumalo was taking photographs, until very recently, of South Africa and its citizens. In all their faces - whether a politician, sports star or ordinary person - you see them, full of life and humanity. That's what he photographed: people, not victims.

Alf Khumalo died in a democratic, multi-racial South Africa, after 20 years of photographing a post-apartheid nation at work, play and politics. He did what he loved; he was exceedingly good at it. What's more, he looks a damn sight more cheerful than Don McCullin. Maybe that's because he helped make a change in the world, instead of just recording it. Anyway, he's dead. He was 82. He was an icon. And if that's not a happy ending, I dunno what is.

No comments:

Post a Comment