Since Apartheid’s fall in 1994, South African photography has exploded from the grip of censorship onto the world stage. A key figure in this movement is Zwelethu Mthethwa, whose stunning portraits powerfully frame black South Africans as dignified and defiant, even under the duress of social and economic hardship. Working in urban and rural industrial landscapes, Mthethwa documents a range of aspects in South Africa—from domestic life and the environment to landscape and labor issues. His work challenges the conventions of both Western documentary work and African commercial studio photography, marking a transition away from the visually exotic and diseased—or “Afro-pessimism,” as curator Okwui Enwezor has referred to it—and employing a fresh approach marked by color and collaboration. Zwelethu Mthethwa is the artist’s long-awaited first comprehensive monograph, providing an overview of his work to-date and featuring the stunning portraits that have brought him international acclaim.
All images © Zwelethu Mthethwa