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Taking the Time to Bear Witness

By 8th October 2020October 23rd, 2020No Comments

Jillian Edelstein

Acclaimed photographer Jillian Edelstein has been photographing marginalised and forgotten communities since she began her career as a press photographer. She grew up in South Africa, and started out in Johannesburg photographing for the Rand Daily Mail and The Star. Jillian has published an award-winning book Truth and Lies, that captures the five years of trials and public hearings for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

After studying photojournalism at the London College of Printing (now London College of Communication), she stayed in the city and set out to capture portraits. Over her illustrious career she has been recognised with the Visa d’Or, the John Kobal Book Award, and the Kodak UK Young Photographer of the Year Award. She has exhibited all over the world including the Bensusan Museum (Johannesburg), Robben Island Museum (Cape Town), L’Espace Van Gogh (Arles) and Sotheby’s (Paris), the Photographers’ Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery (London).

She has moved from photojournalism, to expressive portraits for international magazines like Vanity Fair, Time Magazine and The New Yorker, and campaigns like the 2012 Olympics and Comic Relief.

Jillian was compelled to photograph and be connected to communities that are often forgotten, in part owing to her early memories of growing up in South Africa. She grew up with a Zimbabwean couple who worked in her family home, she remembers being blanketed on Gertie’s back and being enveloped by her warmth. Then the day came when the authorities came looking for the couple’s legal papers. “I remember the experience of having to hide them when people came looking for their ‘DOMPAS’ (that translates as ‘dumb pass’).  Having to hide two people that I completely adored from the security police had a huge effect on me”.

Penny Arcade & Quentin Crisp

Darcy Bussell & Jonathan Cope (1993)

all images © Jillian Edelstein