of blood sweat and data/

On People, Place and Photography

Studio Nxumalo in collaboration with Through The Lens Collective presents an exhibition of contemporary documentary photography by established and new voices, who engage the city, its people, and diverse social structure through the mode of Portraiture. 

As a cosmopolitan city built largely on labour migration, a wealth of unknown stories and realities continue to unfold within this diverse and complex city, inspiring new generations of photographers, driven by a deep sense of curiosity about their own surroundings - to portray the people who co-inhabit this unique space.  

This exhibition approaches portraiture as a complex act of representation, social interest and artistic vision - qualities which embody the unique and diverse character of Johannesburg and its people. Here, we broadly consider the social significance of documentary portrait photography – and its power to shift perceptions through the simple, and yet layered act of seeing and portraying each other. 

The enduring socio-political impact of ‘witnessing’ is evidenced by the immense historical value of documentary photography in South Africa. The views of the photographers presented here serve as vital contributions to an ongoing visual engagement with the city, placing these intimate considerations of each other within a larger web of social activism.

Sibusiso Gcaba

Matt Kay

Nonzuzo Gxekwa

Kgomotso Neto

Tshepiso Mazibuko


Lindokuhle Sobekwa

Tshepo Moloi

Simphiwe Majozi

Lebogang Tlhako

Jack Markovitz


Collaboration with City of Ekurhuleni and Springs Art Gallery.

Special thanks to Thabo Sekoaila

Simphiwe Majozi uses the photographic medium to bring vision to his unseen experience of home. His work considers the immense spiritual value of those precious items left behind by those who have passed on, while acknowledging the significance of those who remain and become both remnants of and successors to; the lives and dreams of their ancestors. 

Many photographers, past and present, have documented South African cultural and spiritual traditions and practices, in attempt to evoke the spirited connection between earthly and metaphysical bodies. Majozi’s work brings a personal and contemporary vision to cultural tradition, reflecting on the experiences of those who are left behind - as inheritors of familial bonds and ancestral legacies. His body of work explores the role that both photography, and these inherited belongings play in our attempts to cherish and hold on to memory.  

The Image is Our Voice


Amira Shariff

Anna Sango

Dewald Bruwer

Hazel Mphande

Katlisho Kat Tleane


Rochelle Nembhard

Simphiwe Majozi

Tshepo Moloi

Through the Lens Collective (TTLC) is a strong educational programme and support system for emerging photographers in the early stages of their careers. Bringing together TTLC’s talented photographers and Berman Contemporary’s resources and curatorial expertise, the selected artists are given the platform to showcase their work and gain access to a wider audience.

The exhibition showcases a group of artists, all with their own visual narratives that reflect a specific place, community or idea within SouthAfrica. It’s clear that this group bears a strong identity that is deeply rooted in their environment, which they transform and renew. Ranging in style and technique the artists use photography as their artistic medium with a depth and sensitivity towards their chosen visual domain giving them each a unique voice which makes them stand out amongst the immensely saturated field.

THE IMAGE IS OUR VOICE reflects Berman Contemporary’s mission to create a synergistic network between South African artists and their global contemporaries while expanding with a more socially aware and inquisitive audience.


Portrait Show 2021

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” Susan Sontag

Over the last couple of years we’ve participated in a collective reflection on life, death, and everything in between. Experiencing the loss of so many lives across the world, some as close as our own homes and communities; together we’ve entered into forced consideration of what it means to be alive at present, the fragility of human life, and the fleeting nature of our physical existence. 

The time spent reflecting on our relationships to other human beings, whether physical, socio-psychological, economic or otherwise, has heightened our awareness of our common humanity and mortality, as that which connects us all - regardless of the diversity of beliefs, experiences, social systems and geographies which seemingly separate us. Beyond the confines of culture and geographical borders, exists a common need to visualise the relationship between ourselves and others, for it is always our deep connections to other beings which drive and shape our earthly experience. 

And now, as we stare at the flattened surfaces of our human existence, we are reminded of both the triumphs and failures of photography, in its ability to both reveal and miss the very thing we are trying to explain. 



Recontres d’Arles 2021

We are pleased to announce that Through The Lens Collective has received a special mention in Les Recontres de las Photographie, Arles, CURATORIAL RESEARCH GRANT AFRICA PROJECTS for our POSTCARD AFRICA project. This distinction awards us the chance to participate in the Recontres d’Arles 2021 opening week. 

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Africa projects curatorial research grant - UNTITLED DUO ( Soukaina Aboulaoula & Yvon Langue, Morocco and Cameroon) for their project IF A TREE FALLS IN A FOREST. 

Thank you to The Recontres d’Arles and the Institut francais for this exciting opportunity!

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