Going and Coming Back: Photographs of 1950s Cape Town by Bryan Heseltine

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


In the late 1940s and early 1950s the South African-born, English-educated photographer Bryan Heseltine made a series of extraordinary photographs in and around Cape Town. Shortly after he made this work, however, Heseltine left South Africa taking his photographs with him to England. Aside from an exhibition in 1955, they would remain there unseen and largely unknown for more than half a century. Heseltine’s photography provides a unique view of Cape Town at the very beginning of the apartheid period, blending modernist visual influences with social and political concerns. The photographs were made in several areas of the city, each of which occupies a distinct position in relation to the racial zoning and forced removals that were central to the implementation of apartheid: the Bo-Kaap, District Six, Langa, Nyanga and Windermere. Heseltine’s carefully composed images depict aspects of social and cultural life and illustrate the diversity of Cape Town’s inhabitants. Working predominantly in medium and large format, the degree of care accorded to his subjects was unusual and extends the value of this body of work. Heseltine’s photography can be viewed as, in equal measure, a critical social commentary on, an aesthetically sophisticated response to, and a human engagement with, the people and spaces of the segregated city. Returning these photographs to be shown in South Africa for the first time since 1952, the aim of the exhibition is to reconnect the photographs to the city in which they were made and to contribute to public understandings of the history of Cape Town and its visual representation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2013
Eventexhibition - District Six Museum, Cape Town, South Africa, 24 Sep 2013 - 28 Feb 2014
Duration: 24 Sept 2013 → …


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