The lone ranger of contemporary photography in South AfricaDate Released: Mon, 5 November 2018 09:18 +0200
By Shakirah Thebus
The School of Journalism was honoured to have received internationally acclaimed and award-winning South African photographer Jodie Bieber recently. Bieber delivered workshops and seminars to second and third year journalism students and presented her current project titled #i.
Bieber is best known for her 2010 Time cover featuring Bibi Aisha, the Afghani child bride who had her nose and ears cut off in a brutal attack orchestrated by her husband and in-law due to her wanting to escape the abusive marriage. The photograph has won many awards including the World Press Photo Contest for 2010. Her Bibi Aisha photograph remains one of her most distinguished to date. “Through my photograph of Bibi Aisha I get to show my other work. I didn't think it was going to make the cover. I didn't think it was going to change her life.” Bieber explained that she wishes all her work could receive as much global attention as her Time cover. Her first book took approximately 10 years to complete, some projects three and her current project #i has taken two years.
#i was launched in Johannesburg at Constitution Hill during the Basha Uhuru Youth festival earlier this year. Bieber searched for young people between the ages of 15 and 23 in the Gauteng region from all works of life and by using a more collaborative approach, worked to showcase their perspective of what it’s like being a young person in contemporary South Africa. # represents the connections and interconnectivity of the participants combined with i which indicates the individuality of the subject.
Bieber was given her first camera by her father and decided to go backpacking for 10 months traveling around the world and worked wherever she could find any vacancy. “The camera became my vehicle for, instead of writing a diary, I took very bad photographs,” she said. Using the words of a Westbury gang member, Bieber describes herself as a 'lone ranger' photographer due to her spending much of her career as a freelance photographer which has led her to work in more than 53 countries worldwide. She started professionally in 1993 and worked alongside the renowned Bang Bang photojournalists at The Star newspaper.
“I've been allowed to, because of my photography, understand human behaviour and nature and where some people come from. I think there's such a divide in our society because people don't know about other people and they see them as 'the other' but if they had gone to the other and seen how they live and spend more time then they'd see that they're not that unfamiliar.”
Bieber shared this regarding her visit to photojourn students in the School: “I hope something triggered in them, inspired them to create projects that are close to home and while they are studying right now, especially if they are writers and photographers, to create portfolios and it doesn’t matter that you're in this small town like Grahamstown, you can create projects here. It’s a microcosm of a bigger community.”
Posters from #i will be displayed at the JMS as well as at the Joza Youth Hub.