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Beneath the Surface – Photographs by Steve Bloom

SOUTH AFRICA IN THE SEVENTIES

In 1976, Sam Nzima’s photograph of twelve year old Hector Peterson’s limp body being carried through the streets of Soweto spread around the world. The government of the time had created a new law which stipulated that black children must be taught in Afrikaans. School children took to the streets and many died in the uprising that followed; Hector Peterson was among the first.

During the 1970s I worked for Nasionale Tydskrifte, who printed many of South Africa’s top fashion magazines, and employed mixed-race people who were obliged to enter the building through a separate doorway. I felt discomforted by the unearned rights assured by my white skin. I spent my weekends out in the streets with my 35mm camera looking for something, I never quite knew what: a confrontation with that particular time and place, an antidote to my working world of seamless commercial images. I explored areas I would not normally be tempted to visit. With no formal training, I approached the project as a fresh-faced amateur.

On my way home from work each day I passed a group of bergies, homeless street dwellers. Many were addicted to methylated spirits, cheap industrial alcohol that causes blindness and shortens life expectancy. Bergies were regarded as invisible by most people, stepped around, avoided at all costs. I photographed them, some very directly, trying to capture their sense of hopelessness. I visited Crossroads squatter camp, where thousands of families had set up home in defiance of the Group Areas Actforbidding migrant workers from living with their families near the big cities. During the day, when labourers were in the city, the authorities routinely demolished homes and terrorised the population.

Photographs help shape our memories and insight into events, but it is impossible to escape the agenda of the photographer with an individual story to tell. I sought to capture a sense of alienation that may well have been a reflection of my own estrangement from the society in which I lived.

SLIDE SHOW

Homeless woman ('Bergie'), Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Homeless people ('Bergies'), Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Bus Stop, Cape Town, 1977, South Africa
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Policeman chasing man, Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Grand Parade, Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Man at home, Clanwilliam, 1975, South Africa
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Riot Police, Cape Town 1976, South Africa
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Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Man being arrested, Cape Town 1976, South Africa
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Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Teargas, Cape Town 1976, South Africa
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Homeless person ('Bergie') being arrested, Cape Town 1976, South Africa
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Sea Point, Cape Town, 1975, South Africa
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Segregated Whites only audience at carnival, Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Sea Point, Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Segregated Non-whites only audience at carnival, Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Segregated Whites only audience at carnival, Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Khalifa Performance, Cape Town 1975, South Africa
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Khalifa Performance, Cape Town 1975, South Africa
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Grand Parade, Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Woman and child, near Cape Town, 1977, South Africa
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Belleville, Cape, 1975, South Africa
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Cape Flats, 1976, South Africa
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Man watching the demolition of his regular cinema, District Six, Cape Town, 1970s, South Africa
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Sea Point Beach, Cape Town, 1970s, South Africa
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Sea Point Beach, Cape Town, 1970s, South Africa
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Nomatyala Hangana, Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town, 1970s, South Africa
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Whites only beach, Milnerton, Cape Town, 1975, South Africa
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Homeless man ('Bergie')sleeping in front of segregated toilet, Cape Town, 1970s, South Africa
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Farm worker's child, Karoo, 1976, South Africa
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Woman at home, Manenberg, near Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Shop assistant in her room, a converted garage, Sea Point, Cape Town, 1977, South Africa
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Afrikaans People entering church, Paarl, 1976, South Africa
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Homeless man ('Bergie'), Cape Town, 1975, South Africa
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Crying baby, Swaziland, 1976, South Africa
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Young Woman, Swaziland, 1976, South Africa
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Woman, Swaziland, 1976, South Africa
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Woman at home, Western Cape, 1976, South Africa
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Woman at home, Western Cape, 1976, South Africa
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Family at home, Clanwilliam, Cape, 1976, South Africa
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Recovering stroke victim, with his wife and daughter, Manenberg, near Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Recovering stroke victim, with his wife and daughter, Manenberg, near Cape Town, 1976, South Africa
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Farm worker's child, Karoo, 1976, South Africa
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Farm worker's child, Karoo, 1976, South Africa
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Family at home, Manenberg, near Cape Town, 1975, South Africa
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Child on bed, Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Woman at home, Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Children outside their house, Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Crossroads Squatter Camp, 1977, South Africa
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Young girl with doll, Manenberg, 1976, South Africa
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Woman looking after white child, Cape Town, 1977, South Africa
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Man at home with daughter, Manenberg, Cape, 1977, South Africa
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Children taunting drunk homeless woman ('Bergie'), Woodstock, Cape Town, 1975, South Africa
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Cape Town city centre, 1976, South Africa
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