Jürgen Schadeberg

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South African photographer and artist

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Berlin, Germany

Jurgen Schadeberg was born in Berlin in 1931. He studied at the School of Optic and Photechnic in Berlin, and worked as an apprentice for the German Press Agency for two years.

In 1950, at the age of 19, he moved to South Africa to join his mother and stepfather, and in September 1951 he joined Drum magazine as their official photographer and layout artist. His first employment in South Africa, however, was with a developing and printing company, printing amateur pictures. This was followed by a position at a studio photographing families.

Generous with his time and advice, Schadeberg became a teacher and mentor to some of the most creative South African photographers of his time, such as Henry Nxumalo, Bob Gosane, Earnest Cole, Ian Berry and John Brett Cohen. He was acknowledged as a leading photographer and teacher, who was open and knowledgeable about black life and culture.

By the mid-950's Drum had grown as a publication, and had attracted some innovative and talented writers. However, in 1959 Jurgen left Drum to pursue a career as a freelancer. In July of the same year he joined an expedition led by Professor Phillip V. Tobias, the Chairman of the Kalahari Research Committee of the University of the Witwatersrand, to study the San (Bushmen). He published these images in the book The Kalahari Bushmen Dance in 1982.

In 1964, Jurgen moved to London to become the editor of Camera Owner, a magazine that later became Creative Camera. His editorship lasted for a year, after which he became a contributor to the Sunday supplements. On leaving London, he went to Spain to pursue a career as an artist. In 1972, he returned to Africa when he accepted a position as photographer for Christian Aid in Botswana and Tanzania. In 1973 he travelled from Senegal and Mali to Kenya and Zaire to take photographs.

In the same year, he returned to London where he directed the exhibition "Inside White Chapel" with professionals such as Ron McCormick, Leonard Freed, Charles Marriott and Chris Schwarts. He also returned to teaching and took up a post at the Central School of Art and Design in London.

In 1976, in conjunction with some of his students, he produced an exhibition called "Quality of Life", which coincided with the opening of the new London National Theatre complex. During the preparation for the exhibition, Schadeberg and his students lived in a warehouse near London Bridge. The group was very international and their images came from all over the world, including Kuwait and the Sahara, Bombay, Brixton and San Francisco.

After teaching a course at the New School, New York, he returned to freelance work for English and German magazines. In 1996, a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the South African National Gallery in Johannesburg.

• Jürgen Schadeberg. about Jürgen [Online]. Available at: jurgenschadeberg.com [Accessed 03 March 2009]
• Personal Contribution by Claudia Schadeberg (wife)

Last updated : 18-Aug-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011