David Goldblatt (29 November 1930 – 25 June 2018) was a South African photographer noted for his portrayal of South Africa during the period of apartheid and more recently that country's landscapes. He described himself as a “self-appointed observer and critic of the society into which I was born.”
Goldblatt was born in Randfontein, Gauteng Province, and was the youngest of the three sons of Eli and Olga Goldblatt. His grandparents arrived in South Africa from Lithuania around 1893, having fled the persecution of Jews there. Goldblatt worked in his father's men's outfitters, attended Krugersdorp High School, and graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a degree in commerce. He began photographing in 1948 and documented developments in South Africa through the period of apartheid up until his death in 2018. In Goldblatt's view, "During those years color seemed too sweet a medium to express the anger, disgust and fear that apartheid inspired".
During Apartheid, Goldblatt in his work The Transported of KwaNdebele documented the excruciatingly long and uncomfortable twice-daily bus journeys of black workers who lived in the segregated "homelands" northeast of Pretoria. The conditions have not changed that much for workers since, he explains [in 2007]. "The bulk of people who live there still have to travel to Pretoria by road. It's still a very long commute for them every day – two to eight hours,” he says. "It will take generations to undo the consequences of Apartheid."
After apartheid, Goldblatt continued to photographs of the area including the landscape. Until the end of the 1990s Goldblatt – in what he called his personal work – rarely photographed in colour. It was only after working on a project involving blue asbestos in north-western Australia, and "the resulting disease and death", that he "got hooked on doing work in color [because] You can’t make it blue in black and white."
This was coupled with new developments in the field of digital scanning and printing. Only when Goldblatt was able to achieve the same "depth" in his colour work that he had previously achieved in his black and white photography, did he choose to explore this field extensively.