A Small Voice: Conversations With Photographers

040 - Gideon Mendel

Episode Summary

Gideon Mendel's intimate style of image making and long-term commitment to projects has earned him international recognition and many awards, over a 30+ year career as a documentary photographer and social activist. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1959, studied Psychology and African History at the University of Cape Town and began photographing in the 1980s during the dark days of apartheid. It was his work as ‘struggle photographer’ at this time that first brought his work to global attention. In the early 1990s, he moved to London, from where he continued to respond to global social issues, notably his longitudinal project on the impact of HIV/AIDS. That photographic odyssey began in Africa, taking in eight countries and expanded to numerous other nations during the last twenty years. The concluding and ongoing chapter, Through Positive Eyes, is a collaborative project in which Mendel’s role shifted from photographer to enabler, handing over his camera to HIV-positive people. His first book, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa was published in 2001. Since then he has produced a number of photographic advocacy projects, working with charities and campaigning organizations including The Global Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières, the Terrene Higgins Trust, UNICEF and Concern Worldwide. Since 2007, Gideon has been occupied with Drowning World, an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to climate change. This work has been applauded for its unusual approaches to portraiture and the development of a variety of visual strategies and elements, including video, to deepen the impact of the endeavor. Amongst many accolades, he has won the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, six World Press Photo Awards, first prize in the Pictures of the Year competition, a POY Canon Photo Essayist Award, the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism, he was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Prize 2015 for Drowning World, which more recently also won a Greenpeace Photo Award, a fact that I neglected to mention during the interview.

Episode Notes

Gideon Mendel's intimate style of image making and long-term commitment to projects has earned him international recognition and many awards, over a 30+ year career as a documentary photographer and social activist. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1959, studied Psychology and African History at the University of Cape Town and began photographing in the 1980s during the dark days of apartheid. It was his work as ‘struggle photographer’ at this time that first brought his work to global attention. In the early 1990s, he moved to London, from where he continued to respond to global social issues, notably his longitudinal project on the impact of HIV/AIDS. That photographic odyssey began in Africa, taking in eight countries and expanded to numerous other nations during the last twenty years. The concluding and ongoing chapter, Through Positive Eyes, is a collaborative project in which Mendel’s role shifted from photographer to enabler, handing over his camera to HIV-positive people. His first book, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa was published in 2001. Since then he has produced a number of photographic advocacy projects, working with charities and campaigning organizations including The Global Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières, the Terrene Higgins Trust, UNICEF and Concern Worldwide. Since 2007, Gideon has been occupied with Drowning World, an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to climate change. This work has been applauded for its unusual approaches to portraiture and the development of a variety of visual strategies and elements, including video, to deepen the impact of the endeavor. Amongst many accolades, he has won the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, six World Press Photo Awards, first prize in the Pictures of the Year competition, a POY Canon Photo Essayist Award, the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism, he was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Prize 2015 for Drowning World, which more recently also won a Greenpeace Photo Award, a fact that I neglected to mention during the interview.