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Rise above

© Peter Magubane
© Peter Magubane

The life of many photographers is a constant self-improvement, not only due to their own limitations, but basically due to the obstacles that are crossing. Being on the front line is hard enough, but it is even harder when the reality of the photographer is intimately linked to what he is reporting. I’m talking about professionals who are trapped by their condition, those who have no way scape because they chose the bravest life option, those who are persecuted by the prejudices of their own society.

I recently discovered the case of Peter Magubane (Johannesburg, 1932), a South African photographer who lived during the most turbulent times of apartheid. Despite the dangers for being black and photojournalist, he persisted in his vocation to explain all kind of injustices. His life is a shocking story of falls and returns: in 1969 he was arrested and confined to an isolation cell for photographing a demonstration support for Nelson Manela’s wife; in 1970 the government accused him of being communist and terrorist; in 1972 he was arrested again, he was imprisoned for six months and, once released, banned to photograph for five years (the most painful punishment); in 1976, the police beat him for covering protests in Soweto; and in 1985, he was hospitalized for a week after being shot in a police charge at a funeral in Johannesburg.

Magubane is not just a photographer, but a really committed person. Not only for the cause of blacks in South Africa but also for any kind of injustices. “Here, I’m a black person. I have to liberate myself through the medium of the camera. I have to liberate the oppressor through the medium of the camera. I have to liberate my people through the medium of the camera.” Not leaving his country was, according to him, one of his best decisions because it allowed him to be part of this historical process of liberation. “Even though I suffered pain, that loss of images, today I still don’t have any hatred whatsoever. I know that i will not help me. In fact, it will destroy me.”

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