Revelations: The Power of Documentary Photography

Arts and Creative Industries

An exhibition and community engagement series entitled Revelations opens at the Durban Art Gallery on 23 September running until 10 November, which is a visual dialogue between two generations of South African documentary photographers: Cedric Nunn and Samora Chapman, whose work exposes people’s daily struggles and triumphs in KZN.

The exhibition is presented by Alliance Française de Durban and the Durban Art Gallery, in partnership with the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and the Centre for Visual Methodologies for Social Change at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The combined work of Cedric Nunn and Samora Chapman presents a photographic journey from the remote rural areas of Zululand to the streets of Central Durban. Revelations is a collection of work that poses a number of important questions through reflection and comparison between fleeting moments of ordinary life in KZN, captured three decades apart.

Both photographers have spent many years documenting the accomplishments and challenges of ordinary people through their work; both have conducted various important educational and photography projects, and their combined body of work is an active agent of social change. Typically, their choice of subjects falls out of the range of focus of mainstream media and public interest – people whose lives and experiences are beyond the public’s gaze and whose dreams have been deferred. Their work, although documenting suffering, poverty and exploitation, evokes the strength of the human spirit. Their photographs document resilience and disillusion, but first and foremost agency. A time suspended between frustration and hope.

Born in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, and member of the legendary collective agency Afrapix during the apartheid era, Cedric Nunn’s collection “The Hidden Years” was an attempt at revealing a process towards liberation.  He is committed “to contributing to societal change that will leave a positive legacy for the children of Africa”.

Samora Chapman, born and raised in the city of Durban, is a writer, photographer and visual artist, who strives to “get under the skin of the city, finding the beauty and the humanity between the hard urban edges, with an artist’s eye”. Most recently, Chapman has worked with the Denis Hurley Centre and has documented the plight of homeless people in Durban under the Covid-19 lockdown in a series called “Street Dreamers”.

The project has been initiated by the Alliance Française de Durban and is curated by Dr Ingrid Bamberg from the Centre for Visual Methodologies for Social Change (CVMSC) at UKZN.


Revelations is an exhibition, and also a community engagement project with artistic, educational, and societal dimensions. The artists and project leaders plan to engage with different members of local communities during the weeks of the exhibition via a series of workshops, masterclasses, round-tables and seminars with emerging photographers, students, photographic enthusiasts and researchers in visual arts and in social sciences using visual methodologies as a form of research and expression. These activities will be facilitated by the CVMSC.

Revelations is a project of the Alliance Française de Durban, supported by eThekwini Municipality’s Heritage Department through Durban Art Gallery and Local History Museums; the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS); the Negpos collective in Nîmes (France), the Centre for Visual Methodologies for Social Change at UKZN, and others.

After the inaugural season in KZN, the project will travel to Luanda (Angola) and throughout South Africa with the support of the Alliance Française network, and finally to France, where it will be hosted by the collective gallery Negpos in Nîmes.

For more information, please contact Alliance Française de Durban – – 031 31 29 582.

Durban Art Gallery 23 Sept – 10 Nov 2021

Revelations is at the Durban Art Gallery, 2nd Floor, City Hall Smith Street entrance (opposite The Playhouse), in Durban City Centre.  Gallery hours: Monday- Friday 8:30 to 15:00. DAG is no longer open on weekends.

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