"Mr. Mkhize has been photographed twice before in his life. The first time was for his Pass Book, which allowed the apartheid government to control his movements.The second was for his Identity Book, which allowed him to vote in the first democratic elections in 1994. Ten years later, we took his picture for no official reason."

That is the opening text from Mr. Mkhize’s portrait & other stories from the new South Africa, which is, to my mind, one of the most captivating “armchair-traveler” ways to get a sense of life today in South Africa. 

It’s a deceptively simple photobook that engages the reader from the very first page. I found it impossible to put down until I finished reading it from cover to cover, and looking carefully at every photograph. 

The presentation is intimate, inviting, and easy to understand. A brief sentence or two introduces a new person, place or idea (or all three at the same time). Then we are given a tightly edited series of quoted statements from the subject of the photo on the facing page. It’s a series of history lessons paired with brief up-to-the-minute real-life stories that explain many of the consequences of living in post-Apartheid South Africa.

These are short, self-contained stories, one leading into the other. The book design gives almost equal space to photos and text. The text is as concise as poetry, and printed with a large font-size in light colors so as not to compete with the photographs. The photos are rich, colorful, direct, and presented as full pages or double-page spreads. The format invites the reader to spend time with each photo and read the brief text that accompanies the photo. Then, you look at the picture again, with deeper understanding and appreciation. 

Although there is a definite bias in the point of view, the stories come at the issues through the eyes and opinions of people of varying ages, genders, races and economic standing. 

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are the photographers-interviewers-authors of this work. They started working together as a pair seven years ago in South Africa when they had to share one camera. The partnership has flourished, earning them long-standing gigs at Colors Magazine in Italy (this book has a similar quality to the design and reportage style of that magazine), assignments for other international magazines, and publications of personal and commissioned work as books. This is their third book published by Trolley Books. 

— Jim Casper

Mr. Mkhize's Portrait & other stories from the New South Africa
Photography by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.
Design by Steven Male.
160 pp, 160 x 200 mm / 6.25 x 7.8 inches, 85 color photographs.
Published by Trolley.