Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2005: Guy Tillim „Johannesburg Story“

Winner 2005: Guy Tillim

The South African photographer Guy Tillim has won the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2005 with his photo report ‘Johannesburg Story’. His reportage documents the transformation of the town from an urban enclave of the white minority to an ‘African town’ as the photographer puts it. The fast transformation, steered by the municipal and regional authorities, has left its traumatizing mark. The emergence of a black and rootless underclass is leading to a new ghetto in Johannesburg, this time of a different kind.

The photographic search for signs of the transformation is convincing in both form and content: the fragmented view of the demolition and decay of the town's structures and apartments reflects the inwardly torn and lost inhabitants. Guy Tillim approaches his subject gradually – from an outside view through to the intimate observation of details. Apart from successfully documenting local effects of historical processes, the photo essay raises questions about the identity and dignity of the human being. In doing so, it makes an excellent contribution to the theme of the Oskar Barnack competition ‘Man and his Environment’. 

80 years after the breakthrough of 35mm photography, Tillim shows that, irrespective of all the changes in imaging technology, the key success factors for further development of the photographic medium are just the same as ever: the inquisitiveness of a journalist, persistence and sensitivity as well as the capability to develop an individual visual style.

The essay ‘Are you a real frog?’ by the German photographer Linn Schröder is given an honorable mention.

Guy Tillim

Born in Johannesburg in 1962, Tillim saw photography as his weapon in the fight against the Apartheid regime. In the eighties he worked as a reporter and joined Afrapix, the South African photo association. In 2005 he won the Leica Oskar Barnack Award. In more recent years, the photographer has been focussing primarily on conceptual land/cityscapes. Tillim lives near Cape Town and is represented by the VU Agency.