Very many of us in South Africa have been the victims of crime, often violent. With much stress and cost we try to protect our persons and property. Nevertheless we remain extremely vulnerable to attack by people who would seize our property and damage or end our lives. Having been a victim I asked myself who are the people who are doing this to us? Are they monsters? Ordinary people? Could they be my children? Are they you and me? I wanted to burrow under the statistics and meet some of these doers of crime as individuals, do portraits of them and learn about their lives. Who to photograph? I did not want to photograph prisoners in jail. I wanted to meet perpetrators as ‘ordinary’ people such as one might encounter in a street or supermarket. So I came to people who had done crime or been accused of it. If they had been in prison, they were now free or on parole. Where to do the photographs? I wanted to do them in situations that were somehow related to the crimes they had committed or of which they had been accused. It seemed to me that the scene of crime would likely be a place of special significance. Life-changing events would probably have been experienced there, both by victims and perpetrators. Hence these photographs and the accounts of the people within them. Most were trying, often in desperately difficult circumstances, to go straight. Consequently I call them not criminals, not offenders, but ex-offenders.
I have paid each of these subjects R800 (about 80 Euros) and each has signed a release giving me permission to publish and exhibit the photographs and their life stories.
I warn each of my subjects that publication and exhibition might, at some later stage in life, damage them, and I proceed only if they fully understand what they are doing and agree to doing it. I undertake to make no money out of this work. Any proceeds above gallery commission will be given to an organisation dealing with the education and rehabilitation of prisoners.
David Goldblatt (South Africa)
Curators: David Goldblatt and Michket Krifa