Lensman off to New York

2015-02-01 15:00

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A young photographer from Langa in Cape Town is about to hit the big time. The Magnum Foundation, a non-profit-making photography ­institute in New York, has awarded Sipho Mpongo (22) one of its 2015 human rights fellowships.

Magnum says on its website its mission is to “support, train and mentor the next generation of ­photographers”.

It has chosen seven young ­photographers from across the globe to attend its six-week photography and human rights programme at New York University.

This will be Mpongo’s first trip out of the country. He started taking photos on his mother’s phone while he was in high school and quickly made a name for himself.

He later joined photography collective Iliso Labantu, which helped him procure scholarships and two years of photography studies.

Last year, for the project TwentyJourney, Mpongo went on a four-month cross-country trip to photograph the born-free generation. It was these pictures that caught the eye of the Magnum Foundation.

“I am a young black South African trying to understand my country and myself,” says Mpongo. “I read Steve Biko in high school ... The pictures I produce are a way of liberating myself and people around me.”

The class and race landscapes of South Africa are central to his work.

One of his most striking images is of a white 16-year-old boy in a shack holding a neighbour’s baby.

“The photo was to liberate people from the stereotypes that exist in our classist society,” he says.

Mpongo’s photos will also be on exhibition in a group show in New York. It will open on Thursday.

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