The dynamic area between black and white, through Schadeberg’s ...

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The dynamic area between black and white, through Schadeberg’s eyes

When the German arrived in SA as a young man in the 1950s, he was immediately struck by the contrasts

Tymon Smith

Jürgen Schadeberg, who died on Saturday, was renowned the world over as “the father of South African photography”. While many of his most well-known images captured the realities and characters that he met in SA during the 1950s, Schadeberg’s career covered a plethora of subjects over the course of a seven-decade career that spanned most of the German-born documentarian’s 89-year life.

Schadeberg arrived in SA as a dapper, 19-year-old immigrant with a passion for photography and a keenly curious eye for the contradictions of the strange new world.

Born in 1931 in Berlin and raised by his bohemian, life-loving single mother, Schadeberg had grown up very quickly in the tumultuous period of Germany under the Nazis. He took his first photograph when he was 12, showing a group of Berliners passing their time to the accompaniment of an accordion player in an air raid shelter in the block of flats where Schadeberg and his mother lived. When his mother met and married a British soldier in 1947, the couple emigrated to SA, leaving Jürgen to fend for himself in Hamburg, where he pursued his interest in photography, working as a darkroom assistant and photographer at the German Press Agency before following his mother to Johannesburg in 1950...

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