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A girl and her mother at home, Boksburg. 22 June 1980
David Goldblatt
Artwork 1980
David Goldblatt's monochrome photograph 'A girl and her mother at home, Boksburg. 22 June 1980' shows a young individual playing a piano on the left, and an older individual sitting on a couch on the right.
Artwork: David Goldblatt, A girl and her mother at home, Boksburg. 22 June 1980 (1980). Silver gelatin print on fibre-based paper. 38 x 38 cm. Private collection.
Artist David Goldblatt Title A girl and her mother at home, Boksburg. 22 June 1980 Date 1980 Materials Silver gelatin print on fibre-based paper Dimensions 38 x 38 cm Edition Edition of 10 Credit Private collection

A girl and her mother at home was first published in In Boksburg (1982), which took as subject the social rituals of a white middle-class suburb. That a photograph taken in an affluent home would prove so potent an image, speaks to the near-inconceivable contrasts of life under apartheid. There is no suggestion of the regime’s violence in this domestic scene – no suggestion of the oppression and humiliation metered out under the banner of separate development – yet it is as if the knowledge of such violence has crept into this suburban idyll, stained the upholstery; leaving marks on the expensive furnishings and pooling under the piano. “In Boksburg,” Goldblatt said, “was partly about the banality of ordinary, law-abiding, and also, on the whole, moral people, who were knowingly living in a system that was quite immoral and, indeed, insane. We were all complicit in it. And that complicity is, I suppose, what In Boksburg is about.”

This photograph is also included in Fifty-one Years, 2001; In Boksburg (second edition), 2015; and Structures of Dominion and Democracy, 2018.

“I was drawn,” the late photographer David Goldblatt wrote, “not to the events of the time but to the quiet and commonplace where nothing ‘happened’ and yet all was contained and immanent.” A preeminent chronicler of South African life under apartheid and after, Goldblatt bore witness to how this life is written on the land, in its structures or their absence. Unconcerned with documenting significant historic moments, his photographs stand outside the events of the time and yet are eloquent of them. Through Goldblatt’s lens, the prosaic reveals a telling poignancy. Even in those images that appear benign, much is latent in them – histories and politics, desires and dread. His photographs are quietly critical reflections on the values and conditions that have shaped the country; those structures both ideological and tangible. Among his most notable photobooks are On the Mines (1973), Some Afrikaners Photographed (1975), In Boksburg (1982), The Structure of Things Then (1998), and Particulars (2003).