Friday, August 11, 2017

Victory in the Shadows: Photographer Santu Mofokeng

By Teju Cole
The ‘‘Easter Sunday Church Service’’ (1996) from a series Santu Mofokeng called ‘‘Chasing Shadows,’’ is dreamlike in effect, full of smoke and scattered light, as devotees (most of them women in white head scarves) gather around for worship.
JOHANNESBURG---Perhaps no photographer since DeCarava has kept as much faith with shadows as Santu Mofokeng has. Mofokeng’s work did not seek to demystify the townships just as DeCarava’s did not seek to explain Harlem. Mofokeng seems to test how many eccentricities a picture can tolerate before it breaks apart. Mofokeng was born near Johannesburg in 1956. His photographs have a powerful, almost mesmerizing, effect on me. At least, now they do. When I first encountered them, some 15 or so years ago, I didn’t understand them. Like the conceptual artist John Baldessari, but without Baldessari’s ironic tone, Mofokeng seems to embrace whatever makes a picture ‘‘wrong.’’[More]