Guy Tillim

17 June - 19 July 2003
For more information contact +27 (0)21 421 2575 or fax +27 (0)21 421 2578 or email us.

–  Biography

–  Excerpt from Departure

–  Catalogue of images from Departure
    (Thumbnail of each image, opens to larger version)

Tillim's photojournalism has been widely published in the years since he started photographing professionally in 1986. At this time, he joined Afrapix, a collective of South African photographers with whom he worked closely until 1990. His work as a freelance photographer in South Africa for the local and foreign media included positions with Reuters between 1986 and 1988, and with Agence France Presse in 1993 and 1994. Tillim has received many awards for his work including the Mondi Award (South Africa) for photojournalism in 1998 (for his essay of images entitled Congo River: journey from Kisangani to Kinshasa and the same award in 1999 (for a series of images on the Himba people of Northern Namibia). He was also a finalist for the French Prix Care for Humanitarian Reportage, France 2001 and the winner of the Prix SCAM (Societe Civile des Auteurs Multimedia) Roger Pic, 2002 for his photographs of Kuito, Angola. His photographs also formed the basis of the exhibition and book Amulets and Dreams: War Youth and Changing Africa (Pretoria) 2002 which was exhibited at the launch of African Union, Durban, July 2002. More recently he was selected, among 100 photographers in the world, to photograph Africa for a book, A Day In The Life of Africa, to be published by Harper Collins in September 2002.

His work has been included in numerous exhibitions of South African art and photography, in South Africa and internationally. The South African National Gallery commissioned him to produce a portfolio of photographs on the Transkei, South Africa in 1990 and, more recently, in 2001 his images of Kuito, Angola, were the subject of a solo exhibition at the South African Museum, Cape Town as well as in Paris on the occasion of winning the Prix SCAM Roger award.

The photographs in the exhibition and book, entitled Departure, display Tillim's distinctive aesthetic. His images are often of harsh realities, but he is seldom invasive or confrontational in his approach. He tends to look at situations from a side view, as a passive but empathetic spectator, and seeks an unusual yet humane moment to provide a lingering disquiet to the image. The book Departure will be available in February 2003.

For more information on the exhibition,
click here to contact us. The images are available in an edition of 12 pigment prints on 300g cotton paper, archivally printed by Tony Meintjes, signed and inscribed by the photographer. Paper size: 58 x 83.5cm, image size: 49 x 73.5cm. Please contact us as regards the current availability and price for each print.

Essay from Departure:

Enough seen. The vision was encountered under all skies.
Enough had. Noises of cities, in the evening, and in the sun- shine, and always.
Enough known. The pauses of life - O Sounds and Visions!
Departure into new affection and new noise!

Arthur Rimbaud - Les Illuminations.

My journeys have been idiosyncratic, often purposeless, not so much to commit journalism as to travel for its own sake. Perhaps the more successful images reflect this; perhaps a pattern can be discerned from their parts. I can describe moments, or trace a journey, by the images I am left with. They themselves form a thread. How I came to be in a certain place seems banal, often forgotten.

In 1997 I was in Korneliuskondre, a village on a tributary of the Coppename river in the former Dutch colony of Suriname. My friend and I had spent some time in the forest, and we were on the way to a border town, from where we would cross into Guyana. We were invited to the village by someone weąd met further up the river, and that night he offered us a thatched shelter, that had beams from which to hang our hammocks.

In the morning I walked into a small church and found children playing there. I was impressed by the simplicity of the building: the polished concrete floor, the sparse altar, and the crucifix hanging above it. I started to take photographs, trying to include the boys in the scene without alarming them, or making them self-conscious. Then, as if we had entered into a silent conspiracy, as if he understood entirely what I wanted, one of the boys moved behind the altar, leaned his head on it, and raised up his schoolbook. On it was a photo of Johan Cryff, a famous Dutch soccer player.

In Guyana, I photographed a dog in the middle of the road. The image made me begin to think of a collection of images ­ a sort of diary in retrospect. I was struck by its seemingly arbitrary and loose composition, and distant subjects. It was an ordinary scene ­ two cars passing on a road, but the dog caught in the traffic (he escaped) created the worthy moment. The fire on the horizon and the piece of white added an undefined menace. The image is a thing of beauty to my mind, has stayed with me for years, it always will. But the scene itself, in reality, was not. It was an instant in an uncomfortable journey, unmemorable except for this scene, which, if I had not captured it on film, would too have passed into oblivion.

These moments are elusive, alluring for being so. My brand of idealism that had its roots in the time I started photographing in South Africa during the apartheid years of the 1980s has dimmed. There was right and wrong, it seemed clear to me which side I stood. One would forego, what I might now call subtlety, for the sake of making a statement about injustice. The world's press set the tone and timbre of the reportage it would receive, and I for one was bought by it. Perhaps that is why I now look for ways to glimpse other worlds which I attempt to enter for a while. But one cannot live them all, and usually I am left with a keen sense of my own dislocation.

Of course, there is always this: to change what is ugly and brutal into something sublime and redemptive. So I have photographs I like for reasons I have come to distrust.

I learned my trade as a photojournalist but feelings of impotence in the face of othersą despair led me to look away, as if catching only obliquely their reflected light. These are photographs of disparate locations, but their justification for ending up in one collection, their basis for comparison, is of another nature: disquiet, introspection, wonder."
Guy Tillim, 2003

1. Guyana, 1997

2. Kabul Zoo, Afghanistan,1995

3. Dust storm, Kuito, Angola, 2000

4. Unity day celebrations, Bujumbura, Burundi, 2002

5. Fans arrive for UN personnel, Quelimane, Mozambique, 1994

6. A boy holds up his schoolbook, Kornieliuskondre, (former Dutch colony of) Suriname, 1997

7. Don Bosco, centre for abandoned children, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2002

8. Kuito, Angola, 2000

9. A boy climbs through a hole in the roof, Kuito, Angola, 2000

10. Displaced people in Jonas Savimbi's former residence, Kuito, Angola, 2000

11. Police headquarters, Luanda, Angola, 2001

12. Revolutionary United Front soldier, Koidu, Sierra Leone, June 2001

13. A civilian takes cover from a Taliban artillery bombardment, Kabul, Afghanistan 1995

14. Ethiopian dead, after a battle near Adi-Quala, Eritrea, Eritrea/Ethiopia war, May 2000

15. Civil Defence Force militia (Kamajoors) near Koidu, Sierra Leone, 2001

16. Goma residents salute Laurent Kabila in Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire), 1996

17. MPLA (Movement Popular de Liberation de Angola) army helicopter, Kuito, Angola, 2000

18. World Food Program grain stores, Kuito, Angola, 2000

19. Bella Vista, Luanda, Angola, 2001

20. Luanda, Angola, 2001

21. Displaced people in a shelter, Keren, Eritrea, May 2000

22. On the road between Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, Afghanistan, 1996

23. Displaced people in former Bishop of Kuito's residence, Kuito, Angola, 2000

24. The evening television news on the rooftop of the Keren Hotel, Eritrea, May 2000

25. Mai-Mai militia camp near Ben, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2002

26. Ancient graves, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, 2001

27. An amputee's grave, Kuito, Angola, 2000

28. Asylum for psychiatric patients, Luanda, Angola, 1994

29. Logging, Guyana, 1997

30. Tete, Mozambique, 2002

31. Luanda, Angola, 2001

32. NGO party, Kuito, Angola

33. Traders jump off the bridge to join their colleagues, Congo, (then Zaire), 1996

34. Springlands, Guyana, 1997

35. Children bathe in the Coppername River, Guyana, 1997

36. Near Matatiele, South Africa, 1990

37. Queen's Mercy, South Africa, 1991

38. Queens Mercy, South Africa, 1988

39. Weimeraner puppies in training for demining operations, Ambriz, Angola, 2000

40. The active volcano, Mt Nyiragongo, and the devastation caused by the eruption in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2002

41. The landing strip at Kisangani, September 2003

42. Mobutu's marble terrace, his residence at Gbadolite, DRC

43. Diamond mine at Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2003

44. Hotel at Boma, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2003

45. Early morning mist at Malange, Angola, 2002

46. On the road between Bikoro and Mbandaka, east Democratic Republic of Congo, 2003

47. The main road linking Goma and Bunia, running the length of east Democratic Republic of Congo, 2003

48. A man tends the bushes in front of the former central bank building in Kuito, Angola, 2000

49. Trees lining the edge of Lake Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2003

50. Centre Malemba Yulu, a traditional psychiatric institution led by the Prophet Mbetado. Patients are chained to engine parts - to restain/detain them for the duration of the treatment as well to give symbolic weight to the eventual cure and release. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2003

51. A UN helicopter lands at Bunyatenge, a mai-mai militia stronghold, bringing a mai-mai general to negotiate the former Rwandan Hutu army’s return to Rwanda, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2003

52. Statue of Augustino Neto, founding president of independent Angola, in Luanda 2001

53. Luanda, Angola 2001

54. Farm fire, near Kroonstad, South Africa, 2003

55. MPLA Party political slogan on an apartment block wall, Luanda, Angola, 2001

56. The rapids on the Congo River at Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2003

© 2003 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.