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Peter Magubane

South Africa

Peter Magubane born on 1932, is a South African photographer.

More by user: miba
Created: 3rd Jun 2008
Modified: 3rd Jun 2008
Professional Information
Working primarily in:
South Africa

Description of Work:
Peter Magubane started at Drum as a driver. After six months of odd jobs, he was given a photography assignment under the mentorship of Jürgen Schadeberg, the chief photographer. He borrowed a camera and covered the 1955 ANC convention. I went back to the office with good results and never looked back.

Being on assignment in the early years wasn't easy. We were not allowed to carry a camera in the open if the police were involved, so I often had to hide my camera to get the pictures I wanted. On occasion I hid my camera in a hollowed-out Bible, firing with a cable release in my pocket. At another time, at a trial in Zeerust from which the press were banned, I hid my Leica 3G in a hollowed-out loaf of bread and pretended to eat while I was actually shooting pictures; when the bread went down, I bought milk and hid the camera in the carton. And I got away with it. You had to think fast and be fast to survive in those days.

Magubane photographed most of South Africa's historic moments e.g. Mandela's Rivonia trial in 1964 and also Sharpeville in 1960. He later recalled I had never seen so many dead people. His editor wanted to know why he hadn't taken any close-ups. Magubane then decided I was not going to get emotionally involved, or at least not until after I have done my work.

He left Drum to become a freelancer. In 1967, he was employed by the Rand Daily Mail. In 1969, he was sent to photograph a demonstration outside Winnie Mandela's jail cell. He was arrested, interrogated and then put in solitary confinement. The charges were dropped in 1970. However, Magubane was banned from photography for five years. In 1971 he was imprisoned again and spent 98 days in solitary confinement and then spent six months in jail.

Following his release, Mugabane was assigned to cover the Soweto riots which occurred from June through to August of 1976. He was arrested, beaten up and had his nose broken. Eventually, he was released at the end of 1976. The series of pictures he took bought him international recognition and acclaim.

This led to other opportunities. He worked on assignments for Time magazine, the UN and for Sports Illustrated (where he photographed a series about the teenage runner Zola Budd).

In 2005, Magubane spent time in hospital recovering from buckshot wounds received when he was caught in police crossfire at a funeral near Johannesburg.

In 2006, the South African Post Office issued a miniature sheet, commemorative envelope and a special canceller on National Women's Day. This commemorates the march on 9 August 1956 when 20,000 women from all parts of South Africa staged a second march on the Union Buildings to protest against the pass laws. They left petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures at the Prime Minister's door. The photograph used on the miniature sheet was taken by Peter Magubane during the march and features some of the women who led the 1956 march: Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn and Rahima Moosa.

Lately, Magubane has stopped doing photojournalism and has concentrated on art photography. He is concentrating on documenting the surviving tribal ways in post-apartheid South Africa in colour. These have been published under the African Heritage Series banner.
Biographical Information
Peter Magubane
(At a Glance)
Gender: male
Interests: Art, Politique, Sport
Place of Origin: South Africa
Peter Magubane was born in Vrededorp, now Pageview, a suburb in Johannesburg and grew up in Sophiatown. He started taking some photographs using a Kodak Brownie box camera as a schoolboy. In 1954 he read a copy of Drum, a magazine known for its reporting of urban blacks and the effects of apartheid. They were dealing with social issues that affected black people in South Africa. I wanted to be part of that magazine. (source wikipedia)

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