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The Bang-Bang Club

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Apartheid was fought on many different platforms and this article is about a group of young men who used photography to engage with the violence at great personal risk to show the world what was happening in South Africa.

After the Soweto Uprising of 1976 the resistance grew stronger and international pressures against the government rose. In the 1990s four photojournalists emerged known as “the Bang-Bang Club”. Their name was coined from an article published in the South African magazine, Living. They became well known for documenting the fighting and unrest in the townships of South Africa and revealed to the world the atrocities which were happening under the apartheid rule.

The Bang-Bang Club consisted of four members: Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Joao Silva and Ken Oosterbroek.

Photo Credit: The Bang Bang Club’s Story, War Witnesses

Ken Oosterbroek was born in 1963 and was a photojournalist for The Star Newspaper in Johannesburg. He struggled to begin his photography career but went on to win numerous awards including the Ilford Award for South African Press photographer of the year. He was killed in friendly fire between the National Peace Keeping force and the African National Congress on 18 April 1994 in the Thokoza Township.

Greg Marinovich survived the same shooting but would be wounded several times through his career in photojournalism in the Middle East and Angola. Greg Marinovich was born in 1962. He won the Pulitzer for Spot News Photography in 1991, for his coverage of the hideous killing of Lindsaye Tshabalala in 1990. He is the co-author of The Bang Bang Club, a non-fiction book on South Africa’s transition to democracy. He consulted on the film The Bang-Bang Club based on the book.

“Good pictures. Tragedy and violence certainly make powerful images. It is what we get paid for. But there is a price extracted with every such frame: some of the emotion, the vulnerability, the empathy that makes us human, is lost every time the shutter is released.” - Greg Marinovich, The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War

Kevin Carter was born in 1960 and rejected the ideologies of apartheid. He suffered from depression and after being a sports photographer he became a political photojournalist. He went on to win the Pulitzer for Featured Photography in 1994 for his 1993 photograph of a starving child in South Sudan. Two months afterwards he committed suicide.

Joao Silva was born in 1966 in Lisbon, Portugal. His career began with a local paper in South Africa in 1989 and he went on to work for The Star in Johannesburg. He is the last working member of the Bang Bang Club. He lost his legs in a mine explosion in Afghanistan while on patrol with US soldiers near the war-torn city of Kandahar in 2010.

The photographic journalism of the Bang-Bang Club contributed to the worldwide condemnation and sanctions that ultimately brought on the collapse of the apartheid government. The surviving members went on to document struggles all around the world including Angola, Bosnia, Croatia, Somalia, Yuguslavia, Afgahanistan and Sudan.

Source:  African Success, Biography of Kevin Carter
Photo credit: The Vulture and the little Girl, 1993, Kevin Carter

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