Ubuntu in Germany Column

Award-winning photographer Jodi Bieber exhibits her pictures in Germany

(Editor: Alex Smit-Stachowski is speaking in her column about life as a South African now living in Germany. The South African journalist lives in Krefeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia/ Germany. Ubuntu in Germany visited Jodi Bieber’s photo exhibition in Goch).

© Jodi Bieber at the Goch Museum (Source: Alexandra Smit-Stachowski)

© Jodi Bieber at the Goch Museum (Source: Alexandra Smit-Stachowski)

Multiple World Press Photo winner, Jodi Bieber is not the mom of famous Justin, despite several amusing incidents at airports. The bouncy, curly-haired 40-something who hails from Johannesburg, is exhibiting her work, “Between Darkness and Light” at the Goch Museum until May 26.

Many only discovered Jodi because of her iconic image of Aisha, the Afghan woman whose face was badly scarred after she was ‘punished’ by the Taliban for fleeing her abusive in-laws. The picture is unsettling because of the scarring but also of Aisha’s quiet resolution – a sign for other abused woman that they can survive, despite it all.

© The award-winning picture of Aisha. Jodi Bieber won the World Press Photo Award 2010.

© The award-winning picture of Aisha. Jodi Bieber won the World Press Photo Award 2010.

I last saw Jodi 17 years ago as we both worked for the Star Newspaper – I was a call-centre agent who began freelancing in the editorial department and she was one of the few female photographers. The early 90’s in South Africa were a wonderful and emotionally-charged time. The ANC had just been unbanned and politics was rapidly changing to accommodate all the people. It was an unstable and volatile period for journalists – but photographers often went where most didn’t.

Armed with several cameras and a huge dose of determination, Jodi would mingle with the Bang-Bang Club photographers – one of her mentors Ken Oosterbroek was killed in cross-fire shortly before the first democratic election. The main wall of the newspaper’s ground floor was peppered with condolences from the public. His death hit home and readers were shocked and saddened by his death.

© Real beauty, African style. (Source: Jodi Bieber)

© Real beauty, African style. (Source: Jodi Bieber/GoodmanGallery)

Being a journalist or photographer in those days meant you were part of a society that looked after the other. South Africans have lived through a lot and are still doing so – but that innate sense of humour and directness prevails.

Jodi chose not to sit in the office and instead went into poorer suburbs and photographed youngsters and their role models, as they were – clutching a cigarette or cleaning someone’s teeth with a knife. Press photography is not an easy path and it’s a toss-up if the pictures turn out to be award-winners. Stadthaus Ulm saw a few of Jodi’s photographs and suggested to the Goch Museum to give her an exhibition – this took two years to make happen.

Among the pictures in the exhibition are several from Soweto – taken before the World Cup in SA to promote the country in a positive light, a handful of photographs of illegal immigrants being deported to Mozambique, wonderful shots of women in prison for killing their husbands and a selection from her Real Beauty range which feature ‘normal, ordinary’ women . All her pictures show the innate dignity of their subjects.

When I heard of the exhibition via Facebook, I quickly learnt it was a mere 45 minutes by train to get there. Goch seems like a small town but the museum is a delight. Greeted by an Andy Warhol banana stencil at the door, visitors have three levels to visit where Jodi’s pictures are hanging for us to view. Her pictures hit me instantly.

Flooded with colour, humour and true Ubuntu – it was like I was looking through binoculars to South Africa. I tried to compose myself as I was moved to tears and when Jodi saw me, she was laughing at my reaction, “I’m sorry I know I shouldn’t be laughing,” she grinned, it sobered me up quickly.

The opening was very well-attended and I spoke to an older German art fan, who couldn’t stop raving about how ‘bodenständig’ – down-to-Earth, the collection was. It was so impressive, she felt and I was treated with a bit of awe when she heard that Jodi and I were ex-colleagues. The public asked Jodi to autograph the books they had just bought and one man brought the poster featuring an 81-year-old woman in lingerie and shyly asked her to dedicate it to him.

She was even asked to sign two bottles of South African wine! However, the adult fame didn’t affect her – Jodi was more impressed by two small children who came to the exhibition after she invited them, the day before. The duo had asked the museum if their granny could have a show as she also did art – Jodi suggested they attend and was delighted to see the feisty tweenies turn up nonchalantly and check out the pictures.

Jodi no longer considers herself a press photographer – what she does now is art and on her own terms. She still lives in Johannesburg after living in London and Paris and is working on a new range to be unveiled to the public in January. She is a true inspiration for women worldwide and her pictures are well-worth travelling to Goch to view.

Between Darkness and Light
24.2. bis 26.5.2013

Südafrika – dieses Land bietet sich natürlich an für jedwede Art der sozialkritischen Fotografie. Das gegen-, neben- und miteinander von hellhäutigen und dunkelhäutigen Menschen, die Befreiung aus der Apartheid, die Armut … wer könnte dies besser und echter darstellen als südafrikanische Fotografen selbst. Jodi Bieber, Gewinnerin des World Press Photo Award 2010, stellt mit „Between Darkness and Night“ ihr Werk der vergangenen 15 Jahre aus – zu sehen im Museum Goch in Kooperation mit dem Stadthaus Ulm. Es ist eine umfangreiche Einzelausstellung – die erste in Deutschland von die großen Werkzyklen und ganze Bandbreite von Jodi Biebers fotografischem Schaffen der vergangenen 15 Jahren.

© Claire (Quelle: Jodi Bieber/GoodmanGallery)

© Claire (Quelle: Jodi Bieber/GoodmanGallery)

Die gesellschaftlich Themen, denen sie sich in ihren Arbeiten widmet, kreisen immer um die soziale Ungerechtigkeit und das Miteinander der Menschen. Ob es sich um den latent mit Angst besetzte Alltag von Kinder und Jugendlichen in Südafrika handelt, oder sie sich mit ihren Frauenportraits mit dem neuen Selbstbewusstsein der Frau beschäftigt, Jodi Bieber diskutiert in ihren Arbeiten die gesellschaftliche Realität unserer Zeit.

Als Fotografin ist sie weltweit unterwegs, mit ihren Arbeiten aus Asien oder Europa hat Sie immer wieder Diskussionen angeregt. Ihre Fokus aber bleibt nach wie der afrikanische Kontinent, wo so bedeutende Serien, wie „Real Beauty“ oder„Survivors of Domestic Violence“ entstanden, in denen sie den Opfern häuslicher Gewalt ein eindringliches Denkmal setzt.

Die in Johannesburg aufgewachsene Jodi Bieber absolvierte ihre Fotografen-Ausbildung zunächst am Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg, einer 1989 von David Goldblatt gegründeten Fotoschule und Galerie. 1993 ging sie zur damals größten Tageszeitung Südafrikas The Star in Johannesburg, wo sie zunächst unter der Leitung von Ken Oosterbroek weiter ausgebildet wurde. Für The Star arbeitete sie auch während der ersten freien demokratischen Wahlen Südafrikas.

Der internationale Durchbruch gelang Jodi Bieber drei Jahre später: 1996 wurde sie eingeladen, an der Masterclass von World Press Photo in Amsterdam teilzunehmen, einer von Joop Swart initiierten, weltweit renommierten Fortbildung für junge, hoch begabte Fotografen unter der Leitung von etablierten Fotojournalisten.

Nachfolgend bekam Jodi Bieber Aufträge von Zeitschriften wie dem New York Times Magazine, GEO oder dem Stern, auch arbeitet sie für Organisationen wie Ärzte ohne Grenzen oder amnesty international.

Täglich außer Montag von 10 bis 17 Uhr,
Samstag/Sonntag von 11 bis 17 Uhr.

Eintritt: 4.- / 2.-


Eine Antwort zu “Ubuntu in Germany Column

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