Guy Tillim, Al’s Tower, a block of flats on Harrow Road, Berea, overlooking the Ponte building, from the “Jo’Burg” series, 2004
Guy Tillim, Tayob Towers, Pritchard Street, from the “Jo’Burg” series, 2004
Guy Tillim, The view from an apartment in Jeanwell House overlooking the intersection of Nugget and Pritchard Streets, from the “Jo’Burg” series, 2004
Guy Tillim, Ntokozo (right) and his brother Vusi Tshabalala at Ntokozo’s place, Milton Court, Pritchard Street, from the “Jo’Burg” series, 2004
Guy Tillim, Grafton Road, Yeoville, from the “Jo’Burg” series, 2004
As Rory Bester has pointed out, though Guy Tillim is often considered a war photographer, his subject is more likely to be the aftermath of war. This point is very apt in relation to the “Jo’Burg” series of 2004. There we see the still very present after-effects of apartheid in the Johannesburg suburb of Hillbrow. White flight in the 1990s from a previously integrated neighborhood, coupled with neglect by landlords, has created an area in which residents—a few holdovers and many recent arrivals, almost all black—are trapped in appalling conditions that they are trying to alleviate through community cooperation. As Tillim’s photographs show, the residents’ fight for an uphill battle, and regentrification may be the final fate of the neighborhood. Tillim maintains a self-effacing and modest authorial presence in his images: he photographs his subjects after several visits and only with their permission, using a tripod to allow them the opportunity to situate themselves in relation to the camera. With minimal interference from the photographer, the residents of Hillbrow relate their collective and individual stories through the best availabale means: their expressions, postures, gestures, and general demeanors. As a series, “Jo’Burg” represents a practice of post-apartheid documentary photography that links contemporary South Africa to its own history.
Kevin Mulhearn, “Guy Tillim,” in Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography by Okwui Enwezor (Göttingen: Steidl and New York: ICP, 2006), p. 371.