The Cruelty of Deliberate Forgetting

I gave a talk at the opening of a photo exhibition on 21 April 2017.

The 1980s — represented in the exhibition Between States of Emergency: Photographers in Action 1985-1990 — were a time when the country was terribly divided. The majority of the population looked at the state with fear and anxiety — our faces pinned to the ground by a military jackboot. These photographs remind us of those desperate times. The economy had all but collapsed. The government was in disarray. The ruling elite was fractured.

There were protests around the country, and the military and police had invaded the townships and our homes. There is cold comfort in the observation that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

So, yes, more than 30 years ago I photographed death and dying during that dark and brutal period of successive states of emergency between 1985 and 1990. I should not be disingenuous and add hastily that I was an average reporter and a rubbish photographer. (Read further)


Ethical lapses cannot be allowed to become normalised

By Ismail Lagardien

There can be no justice in revenge, malice or in the willful manipulation of legal systems. Ethical lapses cannot be allowed to become normalised, especially not in the education system, on the basis that bodies of knowledge are the preserve of one group and that access to these bodies of knowledge has to be policed (Read Further)

What the Image Says: Joy and Laughter


By Ismail Lagardien

This picture appeared on page 3 of the Voices and Careers section of today’s City Press (5 March 2017). The picture is of the looting that was part of the xenophobic violence against non-South African businesses in places around the country.

Reading the Image. The picture is of two people, laughing with joy for the booty they looted, apparently from a local shop. The picture shows no anger, no rage and no violence. It shows only what seems like joy and laughter. It demonstrates, in the least, the value of a caption.


PHOTOGRAPHY: Pigalle on the Paris Metro



I never took many pictures of Paris on my various visits. I took this about 16 years ago. I found the expressions in the faces of the two women quite startling in their contrast. The advertisement poster is colourful and the model’s mouth is stuffed with food, while the commuter sits on the bench looking rather glum and forlorn.


The Pig Butcher Around Midnight

Malacca, Malaysia. September 2012. I woke up at around midnight. It was a long flight. I couldn’t sleep any longer. The sheet was stuck between my legs. I got dressed. I went for a walk through the backstreets. I peered into a room. And watched a butcher chop up pigs. I shot a few frames and walked away. I was awake for another two days after that.

The Pig Butcher from i lagardien on Vimeo.

If I can find the pictures on one of my old storage drives I may make a more creative presentation with sound.

Buried in a Bleak Place

There is a stark loneliness about this small cemetery on the side of the Prince Albert Road in the Karoo, Western Cape. It is a bleak, arid, sometimes sad place. I often wonder what it is that take settlers to some of the most desolate places in the world. The setting for this cemetery is bleak. Then again, cemeteries often are, they are, at least, when the flowers die.

Lines and Angles


Black and white photography is very often simply about shadows and light and how they create or accentuate shapes. In this sense, it can be said, of course, that colour photography is, essentially, about colours…. This takes nothing away from social documentary work, which is in a special class.

Sometimes shapes, in the case of this photograph, below (made with iPhone) lines and angles, reveal themselves. Other times you have to actually make them appear in a frame that is isolated (very briefly, and rarely objectively) from the sights and sounds of the world, and present them somewhat intact.