Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots From A Hidden War

This one caught my eye a few weeks ago while I was browsing through the aisles of the bookshop. Just like foreign war correspondents amaze me, war photographers do too. There is such a huge element of danger in taking THAT shot that will be published around the world, and then the inevitable questions of "but what did he/she do after the shot was taken?". I'm not going to go into the psychological questioning and trying to understand as I personally don't think you can answer those questions, but the Bang-Bang Club gives you some insight into the thought process and passion of photographers who follow and capture violence and war.

Written by Greg Marinovich and João Silva (manly from Greg Marinovich's eyes) about the period between the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the general elections of 1994 in South Africa. During these four years there was a tremendous amount of violence and death in the different townships, and Greg, João, with Ken Oosterbroek and Kevin Carter, documented this, obtaining the name "Bang-Bang Club" through an article in the South African press published about them at the time.
The book describes the scenes, the violence, the people, the incomprehension of WHY people were continously killing each other, the emotions, the untimely deaths of both Ken Oosterbroek (killed by cross-fire that seriously injured Greg too) and Kevin Carter (who took his own life), and finally the joy of being a free and equal human again, through the eyes of a black family in one of the townships on the day of the elections.

I can't say that I am very knowledgeable about South African history, apart from the main parts: Boer War, Apartheid, extreme racism, Nelson Mandela, and finally the end of Apartheid. This book started giving me some insight into life in South Africa during and right after Apartheid, and I've started researching into more depth to learn more. I would really like to understand what instigated all of the violence during those four years, why it was continuously called "black on black violence", when a lot of it was most entirely triggered and enabled by law enforcement and different factions of the people still in power...

As a sidenote - Greg and João also describe some of their jobs outside of South Africa (Yougoslavia, Sudan...), a lot of backlash that came from the public about Kevin Carter's Pulitzer Price winning photograph of a starving Sudanese child, collapsed on the ground while being watched by a vulture in the background.

Anyway - I really could go on and on about this book. It's NOT an easy read in the slightest, and most of the photographs that are included are horrific (in the sense of the scenes that were captured), but it is a must read in my opinion.

I don't think I will ever understand how humans can be so utterly inhuman to each other.

More info here: The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from A Hidden War

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