The photograph, and by definition photography, is a language and not just a two-dimensional moment in time captured forever via the camera or a phone.
It’s an art form that allows the photographer to work in a manner that supports the notion that photography is a means of communication that helps photographers share their feelings and their view of this incredibly diverse, interesting and vibrant planet that we all inhabit.
In helping these 10 amazing young people in their photographic storytelling journey during the Unicef Youth Through the Lens project, I realised that their ability to share their experiences of living through the global Covid-19 pandemic was aided and extenuated by their use of the camera and photography.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Images of trauma and hope – Covid-19 pandemic through young people’s eyes
The images they captured came to them from soul space and truly represented what they lived through and, in doing so, also became a document of the history of South Africa.
By extension our country’s history has been documented over the decades by some world-renowned photojournalists who have produced some of the most historic images of a generation that have been recognised globally.
In their own personal way these 10 young souls have done the same: created a document of our country that will forever remain in the consciousness of those who see their images.
My hope is that every time these images are viewed we all take just a second, less time than it took to capture these moments, to think and remember what we collectively lived through and what impact that Covid-19 pandemic still has on our society, both positive and negative. DM/MC
Kim Ludbrook is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed photojournalist. For 30 years Kim has combined his fascination with discovering our world with his insatiable urge to document the human condition in all its many facets. He has been widely exhibited and published in various photography books, magazines and online forums as well as given numerous interviews, talks and lectures on his craft. He believes in the power of the still image as much today as when he shot his first roll of film in 1986.
This is the confusion we all had during Covid-19 – we were both positively and negatively affected by it. This drawing inspired me to focus on both the negative and the positive effects of the pandemic. (Image: Palesa Ditau)
A burst of light from a candle in its last moments of life shows the light of a community that was and still is one filled with darkness. It’s the light of a future that is uncertain yet filled with hope. If we could survive what we thought was the end it can’t get worse. (Photo: Miguel Chicane)
My story behind capturing this was to tell of how township communities persevered through the most difficult times of Covid-19 but continued to stay united and continued to support each other. At times like this, when a lot was going on and the world was losing direction, we as society had to grow much stronger together. (Photo: Michael Nobert)
At some point we thought this was going to be our lives forever. Wearing masks, sanitising, and maintaining a social distance was part of every day life. As a society, this was new to us. As a community, it was hard to think we might be in this situation forever. My mothers and fathers earned an income by selling domestic products – this was the only way to live – but, unfortunately, the pandemic led to lockdown. This was the only way to control the spread of the pandemic; however, it had a negative impact on us. We had to break the law in order to make it through this hard time. Our only fear was to be among those who lost their lives during this time. We grew stronger as communities and became united. (Photo: Michael Nobert)
There was nothing else to do indoors except try to stay updated with current affairs with our local newspaper. As everyone was just testing positive for Covid-19, we also made efforts to stay away from getting the virus. This was definitely a new experience for all and we had to just live in these new hard times. Because schools were closed, we all moved into the new age of technology as a way to continue with our education. The hardest experience was to start learning through the internet – it was a new thing for all of us. Play time was bound to be indoors. (Photo: Michael Nobert)
Every year, it is a tradition to make sure that we make our way to Nqamakhwe (Nomaheya Village) in the Eastern Cape. This is the place where my great grandparents lived. It is where my grandfather grew up as a boy before deciding to move to Cape Town when he was nine years old, in search of his mother and for a better life and access to good education and opportunities. Growing up, it was one of my dreams to visit this place, as my father and grandmother told wonderful stories of our history and village. Finally, when I was 13 years old I got a chance to visit this ancient, powerful environment. When President Cyril Ramaphosa shared that for many it would be impossible to visit other provinces during lockdown, I was hurt because I could feel part of me being taken away. During Covid-19 it was never the same, as we were not allowed to attend or even host ceremonies, and funerals were given a limited number of attendees. Remember, I’m talking about the Eastern Cape, where hundreds of boys are being transferred to initiation schools, in their journey to manhood. Even this most important traditional ceremony was not possible and many who took the illegal route were arrested. (Photo: Lithe Sam-Sam)
My experience of the pandemic was largely black and white. We entered our first lockdown having been humbled by this new and scary disease, and made small by this transformative and terrifying global event. Time was spent in the safety of the four walls of the building known as home and my thoughts were riddled with ‘what ifs’. What if this was how life would be permanently? What if we could never travel again? What if I could never be in the bush again? What if we could never again go out with friends and celebrate life in the company of others? What if life would never again be lived in all its chaotic beauty? Time passed and my experience of pandemic life, although still black and white, began to embrace some shades of grey – still monochromatic but somehow less so. Restrictions were eased and then tightened, changed and then changed again. We swept through reduced lockdown levels and greater freedoms only to have our tentative venturing back into the world outside our homes curtailed again by more stringent measures as Covid-19 sought to keep its stranglehold on the world. (Photo: Gabrielle Smith)
Making pancakes from scratch with my sister – with extra syrup, of course. I enjoyed moments of solitude within all the chaos. I read and reread books on my bookshelf, I binged the entirety of the Netflix catalogue, and caught up on some much-needed sleep at very peculiar hours of the morning. Online school was a new normal I had to adapt to during my second year of university. With the help of Zoom, Google Meets and video calls I managed to complete the necessary syllabus. If I wasn’t a Wizkid before, I definitely am now. (Photo: Pearl Mprah)
A photograph of the place we used to play before and after the pandemic. We had a lot of fun there. A young boy who used to use trains to go to school before the pandemic. This was taken after the lockdowns, showing him standing on the railway line – there are no trains anymore and so he could not go to school. When the pandemic started, I could not go out – I felt like l was in prison. My life was a mess. I had to leave school, sit at home, had no friends, and did not learn for one and a half years; it was hard. After the pandemic ended, my family still had no income and my dad had no job because of the work he does. Customers did not want anyone in their homes because they were still scared of Covid-19. My dad’s situation of not having a job really touched me, so I decided to look for something to do to help my dad get a job. While l was looking for something to do to help, someone introduced me to photography and l fell in love with it. I decided to use photography to take pictures of my dad’s work and post it online. It helped him to find jobs. So the pandemic was very challenging but it helped me find the thing I love the most. (Photo: Percy Zimuto)
Working Class: A portrait of Carlton, my colleague, who had first-hand experience of the devastating effects of the pandemic. From falling ill and being separated from family, all the way to facing the prospect of unemployment. (Photo: Sabelo Ndaba)
The Faces Behind the Mask: A collage inspired by Peter Beard, comprising self-portraits, each reflecting an aspect of my lived experience during the height of lockdown. (Photo: Sabelo Ndaba)
Through the Scopes of Hope: Where there is hope there are possibilities for well-being. (Photo: Tumisang Khalipha)
Under The Light: For us to witness the light, we must experience the darkness. (Photo: Tumisang Khalipha)