Bang-Bang Club

Bang-Bang Club

The Bang-Bang Club was a name primarily associated with four photographers active within the townships of South Africa during the Apartheid period, particularly in the years running up to the country’s first democratic elections (27 April 1994). While a number of photographers and photojournalists worked alongside the Bang-Bang Club (such as James Nachtwey and Gary Bernard), Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek, and Joao Silva were the four main men associated with the name.

Many of the images taken by the Bang-Bang Club were transmitted and printed internationally, rarely (if ever) receiving attention within South Africa (this due to the government's strict control over the press). Publication of the images brought to the fore the reality of the oppressive Apartheid system, and the murderous struggle between ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party sympathisers, in what were the hostel wars. The government was clandestinely involved in aiding the latter to attack the ANC by stealth. Ultimately the pictures served to increase international pressure on the South African government to allow fully democratic elections.

The name "Bang-Bang Club" was born out of an article written for the South African magazine "Living". Originally named the Bang-Bang Paparazzi, it was changed to "Club" because the members felt the word "paparazzi" misrepresented their work. The name comes from the culture itself; township residents spoke to the photographers about the “bang-bang” as reference to violence occurring within their communities.

In the course of their work, the members accrued two Pulitzer prizes. Greg Marinovich won the Pulitzer for Spot News Photography for his coverage of the killing of Lindsaye Tshabalala in 1990. Kevin Carter won the Pulitzer for Featured Photography in 1994 for his photograph of a vulture that appeared to be stalking a starving child in southern Sudan. The latter drew intense scrutiny to the roles a photographer was to play, as Carter was asked many times if he had helped the child or not.

Tragically, the photography of the Bang-Bang Club ended with the death of Ken Oosterbroek, killed on April 18, 1994 while photographing a siege in Tokoza, a few days before the elections they had worked so hard to support. Marinovich, who was also shot, documented the incident in an autobiographical book about the "Bang-Bang Club" and believes that, ironically, he and Oosterbroek were inadvertently shot by stray bullets fired by members of the National Peacekeeping Force. Kevin Carter committed suicide on July 27, 1994. Both Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva have remained active photographers. In 2000, they authored "The Bang-Bang Club", a book documenting their experiences.


*Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva. (2000). "The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War". Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-04412-3

External links

* [ An excerpt from The Bang-Bang Club by Marinovich & Silva, chapter 1 - The Wall]

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