Beneath the surface - South Africa in the Seventies

1976 was a critical time in South Africa's history. The first real cracks in the Apartheid system of racial segregation appeared when black school children took to the streets to protest against new laws which were introduced to give them an inferior education system. The authorities cracked down ruthlessly, killing and wounding many. It was a time of realisation: the beginning of the end of white complacency and black defeatism.

Steve Bloom took to the streets and the townships, photographing people at this pivotal moment in history. Some of the pictures, edgy and fleeting, capture the tension and excitement of the time. Others, such as portraits of down-and-outs, show the utter despair of people under Apartheid. Bloom managed to capture the emotional essence of the moment South Africa began to experience unstoppable, real dissent. The portfolio contains images of dark humour, irony and sadness. The photographs are deeply personal, revealing the alienation of people as they went about their daily lives. Rather than photograph the obvious signs of Apartheid, Bloom caught people in their most private moments, acknowledging that all the peoples of South Africa were ultimately victims of Apartheid.

In 1977 Steve Bloom travelled to London where he allowed The International Defence and Aid Fund (under the auspices of the United Nations) to exhibit and publish the photographs internationally. After the fall of Apartheid, the pictures were withdrawn from circulation, and only a few vintage silver gelatine prints remain.

In 2009 Steve Bloom resurrected the negatives, and began printing a selection of about eighty images. Many of the recently printed photographs lay in boxes for 33 years and have not been published or seen before. The old scratched negatives are being restored. A selection can be seen here.