100 World Class South Africans: Peter Magubane

2013-06-21 12:00

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Witness to history

He hid his camera in a hollowed-out Bible, a loaf of bread or a milk carton; he was banned from taking photographs for five years, repeatedly arrested and imprisoned (586 days in solitary confinement) and suffered severe buckshot wounds.

But he was there at Sharpeville (1960), at the Rivonia Trial (1964) and when Mandela walked out of prison (1990).

Peter Magubane is more than a photographer. He is an institution.

He recorded the Struggle for over 30 years, and has earned seven honorary degrees, published 17 books and held innumerable exhibitions.

Magubane started taking photos with a Brownie box camera as a schoolboy in Sophiatown, and joined Drum magazine (as a driver) in 1954.

Living by a former editor’s dictum – ‘If you want a picture, you get that picture, under all circumstances’ – his coverage of the June 1976 Soweto uprising earned him international acclaim and assignments for Time, National Geographic and Sports Illustrated.

Now 81, Magubane’s switched to art photography, documenting the surviving traditional cultures in SA.

The ‘fighter with a camera’ is striving to show a side of our country rarely seen in his earlier work: its beauty.

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