Paul Weinberg

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Biographical information

Paul Weinberg

Synopsis:

Photojournalist, documentary photographer, taught photography at the Open School, media worker worked at the Institute of Race Relations, film maker, lecturer

First name: 
Paul
Last name: 
Weinberg
Date of birth: 
1956
Location of birth: 
Pietermartizburg, Natal, South Africa

Paul Weinberg was born in 1956 in Pietermaritzburg into a progressive middle-class Jewish family. His father was a lawyer and his mother a music teacher. He was the youngest of three children. He completed his schooling in Pietermaritzburg at the Prestbury Junior School and Alexandra Boys' High School, and obtained his undergraduate BA degree in political science, economic history and law from the University of Natal. In 1973 he was called up to do his military service and served his time in Upington, Walvis Bay and on the Namibian border. His military experience had a profound influence, encouraging him to question his middle-class privileges. On his return from the army in 1977 he obtained a diploma in photography from Natal Technikon.


Forced removals, Magopa, 1984 
Source: Godby, Michael & Weinberg,
Paul. 2008. Then & Now: Eight South 
African photographers. 
Johannesburg: Highveld Press

Weinberg’s professional career as a documentary photographer began in 1978 working for the Natal Witness. The Sunday Tribunealso employed him. In 1979 Weinberg taught photography at the Open School, a community arts project started by the Institute of Race Relations to train young black youths in the arts. He worked for the Institute of Race Relations as a media worker and in 1980 and 1981 made two super-8 documentaries, one on Alexandra Township and the other on Page View, a predominately Indian area before their forced removal.

In late 1981 Weinberg was recruited by the South African exiled artists of the MEDU collective in Botswana to coordinate the photographic exhibition for the Culture and Resistance Conference and Festival. In 1982 Weinberg and photographer Omar Badsha founded Afrapix, a collective photo agency that played a key role in documenting the resistance to apartheid in the 1980s. Weinberg headed its Agency and Badsha headed its exhibition and special projects division. The pair organised and edited the annual Staffrider exhibitions.

Weinberg also contributed to the “Cordoned Heart” project prepared for the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in Southern Africa. Later that year he started Afrascope, an anti-apartheid film and video unit. In 1991 many of the members including Weinberg left Afrapix and formed a new photographic agency called Southlight, which later became South Photos.


Fish trap, Kosi Bay, 1993 
Source: Godby, Michael & Weinberg, 
Paul. 2008. Then & Now: Eight South 
African photographers. 
Johannesburg: Highveld Press

Weinberg’s in-depth documentation about the lives of the modern San living in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa resulted in a number of exhibitions locally and internationally and a book (In Search of the San). In 1993 he won the Mother Jones International Documentary Award for his portrayal of the fisherfolk of the Kosi Bay community, at the time under threat of removal by the apartheid government, on the northern Natal coast.

In 1994 Weinberg compiled and ran a course in photojournalism at the Durban Technikon. From 1996 – 2000 he taught at the University of Cape Town and later obtained his Masters degree from Duke University, North Carolina where in 2004 he taught at the Centre for Documentary Studies. He is the senior curator of visual archives at the University of Cape Town, and lectures in documentary arts also at the university.

He continues to work as a photojournalist, documentary photographer and film-maker. His most recent films include Dancing for God, documenting the annual Shembe Church pilgrimage; Trancing in Dreamtime, a look at San and Aboriginal musicians; and Double Vision, exploring the concept of the South African diaspora.

Weinberg co-founded, with David Goldblatt, the Ernest Cole Award for creative photography in southern Africa.


References:
• Godby, Michael. 2004. After Apartheid: 10 South African Documentary Photographers. African Arts. Winter: 36 ”“ 94
• Godby, Michael & Weinberg, Paul. 2008. Then & Now: Eight South African photographers. Johannesburg: Highveld Press
• Hayes, Patricia. 2008. Power, Secrecy, Proximity: A History of South African Photography. In Jenny Altschuler (ed.) The 4th Cape Town Month of Photography: Emergence & Emergency. Cape Town: The South African Centre for Photography
• Tomaselli, Keyan. 1985. Progressive Film and Video in South Africa. Media Development  3: 1517
• Weinberg, Paul & Biesele, Megan. 1990. Shaken Roots: The Bushmen of Namibia. Johannesburg: EDA Publications
• Paul Weinberg Photography [Online] Available at: http://www.paulweinberg.co.za (Accessed 2 February 2010)

Last updated : 29-Jun-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 22-Oct-2011

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