The Bang Bang Club by Greg Marinovich & Joao Silva (Arrow Books Ltd)
"They're right. All those people who say it's our job to just sit and watch people die. They're right." -Kevin Carter
Johannesburg. The final days of Apartheid. Four South African photographers brave the streets of the townships to cover the ongoing clashes between IFP and ANC supporters.
This is the story of photo journalists who covered the hidden war between the supporters of the IFP and the ANC, bringing attention to how South Africans were waging an isolated civil war on one another while the rest of the country sat in fear, apprehension and elation at what the end of Apartheid would mean for them.
One usually doesn’t think about where the images we see in our newspapers come from, they’re snapshots of horrors happening all over our globe that we get to see, we rarely think about where they come from and the photographers who were there and have allowed us to see the situations as they do.
A snapshot. A moment in time. A slice of history.
Reading the The Bang Bang Club allows the reader a momentary glimpse into the lives of a photo journalist covering conflict.
What I found most compelling about this book was that it was frank in its account of what was happening to these journalists both personally and professionally during this time.
As the book progresses we see the effects the constant conflict is having on the journalists with friends/colleagues being injured or dying, the competitiveness that pervades the industry and constant moral dilemma of watching people dying and photographing their final moments.
This book is brilliantly written, with each chapter being a snapshot of a particular event in their lives at the time. One of the main themes or questions raised by the members of The Bang Bang Club is the moral issue of taking photos instead of helping people.
Sometimes there is nothing they can do, other times they would’ve been able to help but not without risking their own skins. It is not a happy story – there is no happy ending. The deaths of Ken Oosterbroek and Kevin Carter make the story even more tragic; however there is a lot of death in this book.
Should you read this book?
It is brutal account of the days leading up to and after the 1994 election; I would only recommend it to you if you can stomach the violence and heartache that comes along with their story.
"I hope I die with the best fucking news pic of all time on my neg. - it wouldn't be worth it otherwise..." - Ken Oosterbroek
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