Internationally acclaimed, Durban-born photographer Ranjith Kally, has documented some of the key people and events involved in South Africa’s struggle for democracy. His pictures, dating back over 60 years, give us a glimpse into the tensions of the past, of the events that shaped our future.
Kally’s first camera, a humble Kodak Postcard, purchased for just sixpence, ignited a passion for photography that saw him quit his job at a shoe factory and pursue a career in photojournalism. He worked for two of the foremost publications of the time – the Golden City Post and Drum, where he spent nearly three decades, capturing pictures of anti-apartheid leaders like Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Monty Naicker and Chief Albert Luthuli; and capturing poignant moments in South African history, including the Treason Trial, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chief Albert Luthuli, and the Rivonia Trial.
In 1952, Kally won third prize in an international competition held in Japan out of a field of 150,000 entries, and in 1967 he was admitted to the Royal Photographic Society, London, for a selection of portraits. His pictures have graced newspapers around the world, they are part of the Nobel Collection, are featured in school textbooks, and are depicted on two South African postage stamps, yet he only held his debut solo exhibition in 2004, at the age of 79.
In April 2013, Kally was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Literature by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in recognition of his long and prestigious career. An unsung living legend, he ranks among the most politically courageous and artistically gifted photographers of his generation. Kally’s life through the lens has left us a lasting visual legacy that will enlighten generations to come, of our fallen heroes and celebrated liberties.