Collecting South African Photographs/Collecting South African History

Karen Glynn with photographer Alf Kumalo, Soweto, South Africa: Paul Weinberg

This summer Duke Libraries’ visual materials archivist and collector, Karen Glynn, traveled extensively in South Africa to support two documentary photography projects. One of the projects, “Then & Now,” is an exhibition of the work of 8 photographers. Each photographer submitted 20 prints; 10 prints made under apartheid and 10 prints post-apartheid. “Then & Now” opened at Rhodes University on 10 September. Conversations are underway at Rhodes and other institutions about establishing a South African Center for Documentary Studies, modeled after the Duke Center for Documentary Studies.

Glynn acquired a set of the 160 prints in the “Then & Now” exhibit for Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. She also researched images for a future project entitled “Underexposed.” With South African photographer Paul Weinberg as her host and guide, Glynn moved around the country, meeting photographers and selecting work for “Underexposed.” This project proposes to scan 300 images by 13 South African documentary photographers, whose work is essentially inaccessible to the public, and mount the images on a webpage for educational, noncommercial use. In addition, two sets of 50 prints will be made of each body of work; one set will remain in South Africa, and one set will come to the Special Collections Library at Duke.

Contributions from the Duke Libraries’ John Hope Franklin Collection of African and African American Documentation and a Perkins Library funding grant supported Glynn’s acquisitions of the “Then & Now” and “Underexposed” images.