Chris Ledochowski was born in 1956 in Pretoria. He grew up in Johannesburg and from 1968 to 1974 he attended Waterford- Kamhlaba, a non racial boarding school in Swaziland. After completing his O and A Level Cambridge Certificates, Ledochowski attended the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts in Poland for several months as a visiting student. In 1975 Ledochowski returned to South Africa to undergo conscription in the South African Defence Force.
From 1977 to 1980 Ledochowski studied to obtain a diploma in Fine Arts at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town (UCT) where he majored in photography. In his final year project he documented the community of Harfield Village who were forcefully removed under the Group Areas Act. This first portrait project was to define his approach to documentary photography, placing the accent on a two way dialogue between photographer and subject. This relationship, based on the premise of mutual trust as well as sharing in the ownership and control of the images, has since been ever present in his photography. Artistic versus social and political considerations pervade Ledochowski’s work.
In 1982 he moved to Johannesburg where he co-founded Afrascope, an alternative documentary film unit based in Khotso House. The unit’s objective was to document the political developments of the time and was subjected to security raids. He returned his attention to photography and began what was to become a long term project in Nthabalala, Venda, documenting the life of an ex migrant worker.
In 1983 Ledochowski joined the Afrapix Phtographic Collective and Agency and returned to Cape Town to pursue his documentary work in the townships and squatter camps. He also established the film and video unit for the Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development as part of the South African Labour Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town. In 1985 he contributed to The Cordoned Heart, an exhibition and book of essays by twenty South African photographers, prepared for the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in Southern Africa.
While photographing in the townships Ledochowski also began taking commissioned portraits which he then hand painted and framed for clients. A selection of these portraits was exhibited in 1986 at the Market Photo Gallery, Johannesburg, in a solo show entitled Hand Coloured Portraits from the Cape Flats. In the mid eighties he began his extensive documentation on the formation and development of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and affiliated unions in the Western Cape which continued into the early nineties.
Meanwhile, Ledochowski continued his relationship with SALDRU, UCT, working on the Atlantis Project, documenting the community of Atlantis north of Cape Town and producing a travelling exhibition entitled Atlantis - A Utopian Nightmare.
In the late eighties he worked for a number of years in the township of Mbekweni outside Paarl, in conjunction with the Critical Health Project and the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU). In 1988 he co-established the Cape Town Branch of Afrapix Photo Agency at Community House and held photographic workshops for the Cape Artists Project’s (CAP) Media Project.
In 1990/1 Ledochowski edited and produced the Children’s Exhibition for Afrapix, in conjunction with a children’s organisation in Cape Town. The following year he co-researched, edited and printed the Mzabalazo Pictorial History of the ANC for the Mayibuye Centre, University of the Western Cape (UWC), producing an exhibition and publication. During the same year he completed the second stage of his project in Venda and his exhibition Ten Years After - A Return to Nthabalala Village, Venda, was exhibited in 1993 at the Mayibuye Centre, UWC and later at the Bat Centre, Durban, in 1996.
From the late eighties to mid nineties Ledochowski worked towards an exhibition hand colouring his documentary photographs from the Cape Flats and produced ceramic frames for them in collaboration with ceramicist Joe Faragher. Hand Coloured Photos in Ceramic Frames: A Collaboration between Photographer and Ceramist was exhibited in 1995 at the Cape Gallery in Cape Town, Museum Africa, Johannesburg 1996 and Grahamstown the following year.
In the late nineties, Ledochowski was invited to participate in a group project by The Netherlands Architectural Institute for the exhibition: Blank_ Architecture - Apartheid and after. He revisited the theme- Rural/ Urban- which he had been documenting for several years in rural Pondoland and the squatter camps of Cape Town.
In 2000 Ledochowski was invited to participate in a documentary project commissioned by The President’s Office on the state of the child in SA. He covered the rural region of the former Transkei. The result was a group exhibition- Every Child is my Child.
Another long term project undertaken by Ledochowski was to document in colour the art and cultures of the Cape Flats townships which he began in the late 1980s. This culminated in the publication of a book Cape Flats Details in 2003. That year Ledochowski was invited to exhibit photographs from the project at the 50th Venice Biennale. This was facilitated by Michael Stevenson Contemporary in Cape Town. The work was later exhibited at the Polish Institute in Paris and The Visiting Gallery in Warsaw.
In 2005 Ledochowski returned to Nthabalala in Venda for the third stage of his long term project documenting the life of Mr Petros Mulaudzi whom he has known for most of his life. In this project he attempts to engage in a personal dialogue with his subject over time, and reflects on the process of documentary photography. He aims to finally compile the photo visits into a publication.
He continues to revisit a number of earlier projects as well as contribute to exhibitions.
Ledochowski, C. (2003) Cape Flats Detail: Life and Culture in the Townships of Cape Town. Pretoria: South Africa History Online & UNISA Press.