The photographer writes:
‘Large corporations and white residents fled Johannesburg's inner city in the 1990s. The removal of the Group Areas Act foreshadowed a flow into the city of black residents and small black businesses seeking opportunities and looking for a better life. The former denizens looked back with righteous justifications at a city that was given over, if not to plunder, then to mayhem.
‘Body corporates became a relic of a more genteel era. Windows were broken and not repaired. Lifts froze and their shafts became tips. Communal responsibilities were not marked out and not paid for. As a consequence the city started closing on the buildings for unpaid dues, and the buildings started looking like fire hazards to city fathers and as development opportunities to speculators with an eye on the rents that can be obtained in the bloom of an African city.
‘The tenants have constituted committees to face these threats ... and have with meager resources attempted to clean up the buildings. They have delayed the inevitable, but their committees have no basis in law and are vulnerable to an onslaught of capital and legal shenanigans that have invoked statutes and non-compliances that carry the penalty of eviction. The question is whether central Johannesburg will revert to being a city of exclusion.’
Tillim was the recipient of the 2004 DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Photography. As part of the award the Jo’burg series is on view at the South African National Gallery until 21 March 2005, after which it will travel to Johannesburg and Durban. The series will be published as a book in April 2005. Tillim’s work is included on the survey show Africa Remix,
which opened in Düsseldorf in 2004 and travels to London, Paris and Tokyo. He has also been named a festival artist for PhotoEspaña in Madrid in 2005, and his Leopold and Mobutu
series will be exhibited at the Photographers’ Gallery in London in September 2005.