Zanele Muholi: Social Activism And Photography

3839 words - 16 pages

Traci Vander Hoeven
3 December 2014

Zanele Muholi: Take note, Shelby Adams, this is Activist Photography

Photographs are one of the most powerful means of advocating for environmental and social change. One’s images can influence one, or influence many; all with the click of a button. As a photographer, Zanele Muholi, provides the viewer her own personal take on her queer community; specifically, the black lesbian community, and their oppressed status in her home country of South Africa. A country struggling to move forward from their colonial past and embrace their post-apartheid vision of collectiveness and unity. Her passion as an activist photographer serves to record a history ...view middle of the document...

In my opinion, this admittance of his own personal exclusion from the Appalachian community solidifies his act of othering in his works. This left me with a discontented feeling and I set out to find someone I felt truly was an exemplary model of an activist photographer.
Zanele Muholi is a visual activist, photographer and former journalist who has worked extensively as a human rights activist for the queer community. She strives to bring to public attention the issues of hate crimes, ‘curative rape’, assault, HIV and brutal murders of black lesbian women in post-colonial South Africa. Muholi acknowledges “not only is she ‘outing’ her subjects as lesbians publicly, she is also navigating the precarious boundary between empowering and exploiting her subjects” (Breukel 16). It should also be noted that Muholi owns her black lesbian identity and features her self-portraits for display in her photography, publications and exhibitions (Breukel 16). Unlike Shelby Adams, I feel Zanele Muholi embodies the characteristics that define a great activist: sees a need for change, devotes her time and energy seeking that change, and is driven by her passion and vision for a better future for her community. She communicates her passion and vision beautifully through her photographs.
Internal Source Analysis
I have chosen the following photographs from her book, and its accompanying exhibit, Faces and Phases: Ayanda Megoloza (2012), Anelisa Mfo (2010) and a third, photo, Aftermath (2004), that is separate from the Faces and Phases works. Faces and Phases is a collection of over two hundred photos taken of members of the queer community (primarily black lesbians) in South Africa (Curtis, par. 2). The images are done in a black and white portrait style and presented in a way that offers to neutralize a viewer’s way of seeing. A sense of belonging is asserted by way of inclusive logic about how people belong and connect with their many community levels (Salley, par. 9).
Ayanda Megoloza is black and white portrait style photograph; evoking a fashion magazine- type feel. The photo is closely cropped and in so we lose a portion of the subject’s curly up-do hair and see just a slight curvature of her bare shoulders near the base of her neck. The subject’s gaze is serious and straight forward at the camera. She stands in front of a dark draping of cloth. Her face shows no signs of make-up and she has well-shaped, full lips that are in their natural state. There are no other adornments, such as jewelry, being worn by her. She presents a presence of confidence, but there is also an underlying look of sadness.
Anelisa Mfo is also a black and white portrait style photograph. The photo is cropped so that we see the upper portion of the subject’s body as well as the background. The background is that of a corrugated metal covered building or wall. The seams of the corrugated metal are defined and at the base of the wall, on the left bottom corner of the...

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