Obituary: Ranjith Kally

2017-06-11 11:14
VISIONARY Iconic picture of Chief Albert Luthuli at his home

VISIONARY Iconic picture of Chief Albert Luthuli at his home

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Johannesburg - Tall, handsome and with a can-do attitude, Ranjith Kally had a way of making his presence felt.

The anti-apartheid photographer who died aged 91 on Tuesday was “discovered” by the white art establishment when he was invited to exhibit at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg in 2004.

But Ranjit was part of a small number of Indian and black news photographers with very little education who came from working class families, but came to dominate and document social and political life in the urban ghettoes of Durban and other South African cities from the 1950s.

Kally and his peers cut their teeth at small Indian family-owned and Zulu-language newspapers in Durban, and had to spend their working lives in the cultural sections of mainstream newspapers.

They earned a pittance as freelancers, and Kally and others became adept at finding work as wedding or commercial photographers.

I grew up knowing Kally and GR Naidoo, the legendary photographer and editor of Drum magazine, because they were friends of my uncle, also a photographer.

They were considered celebrities in our community; everyone knew them and they knew everyone.

In 1978, I was visiting the Sunday Times Extra newsroom and Kally asked me if I wanted to take over his darkroom, and that became my office.

Twice he visited me and tipped me off that security police were keeping a close eye on me. On the second occasion he told me about an impending raid.

In the past 12 months, Kally and I became very close. I would visit him in Durban, or in Johannesburg when he was visiting one of his daughters.

He was very concerned that his archive find a home and be loved.

Last week he called one of my colleagues to enquire if I was in Johannesburg and to inform them that he was in hospital and that I should visit him.

Unfortunately, I had bad flu and was unable to.

Badsha is a South African documentary photographer, artist, political and trade union activist, and a historian

Read more on:    goodman gallery  |  obituary

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