Seen on July 11, 2015 @ National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
Between Darkness and Light, A Mid-Career Retrospective of the Photography of Jodi Bieber
Through her work renowed South African born photographer Jodi Bieber explores the darkness of life’s existence, the harshness and tough circumstances that overshadow people’s lives, but also the unexpected vibrancy and unconventional portrayal of a reality that is often not pictured in media. Light and darkness, black and white photography and full colour pictures portraying the both sides that can be evident in a person’s life: murderers and rapists that can smile, abused women in full colour, women that murdered there husbands in still life, pictures about Soweto that do not make the newspapers as they show everyday scenes of people in a swimming pool, praying or a teenage rock bank practicing in the yard. The 100 pictures that make up the retrospective of her work span a period from 1994 to 2011. She writes “Through my projects I faced the harshness that so many people encounter, and the resilience of the human spirit. I’ve leart that we all have two sides and, depending on the changing circumstances of our lives, one sight might overshadow the other.” This personal engagement with a world that was hidden for her and where she was protected from, becomes a place where many unusual friendships has thrived. To make known what Bieber portray requires trust and friendship to happen so that the various people that are photographed are expressed in dark and light in a way that is weary of sensationalistic photojournalism, cheap tear raising. Whether it are illegal migrants repatriating home, junkies living on a rubbish belt, homeless and addicted people in Joburg, children growing up as gangsters or women showing they feel okay in their skin and pose in ways that challenge accepted definitions of beauty.
Although many pictures are unpleasant to see in terms of its content (children playing with real guns in their mouths, young people dosing themselves with needles that transport HIV/AIDS, stories of abused women) the exhibition sends a mixed message of distress, hope, resilience, discomfort and amazement of what people are capable of. Reality hits hard. Parental advisory: warranty visual explicit messages.
The power of the work is not in its attention grabbing appeal but in its humane approach to discern darkness from light.
Her works have been published in the three monographs: Between Dogs and Wolves: Growing up with South Africa (2006), Soweto (2010) and Real Beauty (2014)