John Liebenberg: Great Photographer of Life And War In Southern Africa

Great Photographer of Life And War In Southern Africa

South African photojournalist John Liebenberg is famous for his impressive body of work in Namibia, particularly the length of the late 1980s once the nation led towards its United Nations-supervised transition into liberty .

Born in 1958 in Johannesburg, his youth wasn’t a simple one, a part of it invested in an orphanage. He finished school in some time when white South African males were expected to finish compulsory army support and he had been conscripted into Ondangwa in northern Namibia in 1976. It was prohibited to take photos in the military, but Liebenberg hid a little camera at the bathroom block.

After federal support Liebenberg returned into Namibia and functioned at the Windhoek post office. He wished to become a photographer. He had a capacity to connect to individuals. He regularly spoke of the black migrant employees that he came to understand in the office, the majority of them out of Namibia’s northern boundary region with Angola at which the warfare has been intensifying. Called the ‘border war’ into South Africans and since the’war of liberation’ into Namibians, it brought Namibia, Angola and other countries to South Africa’s struggle against armed liberation movements encouraged by socialist states that surrendered wider Cold War politics.

“Endearment” was a phrase Liebenberg enjoyed to use while speaking about his connection with individuals, getting to know their stories, and their unpleasant journeys of requirement to operate from the south. One had the sense, many decades afterwards, the tales obsessed him. This was the exact same after he combined The Namibian paper and started covering the developing urban mobilization of trade unions and pupils and progressively, the warfare zone around the border with Angola.

Fellow supporters and friends describe a guy with the ability to jump fences, break down borders, and disarm individuals because he moved like a whirlwind shooting photos, sometimes slyly, but frequently being touched by individuals and touching them.

Enemy of The Country

Namibia’s transition into liberty began on 1 April 1989 and originally foundered with the collapse of a ceasefire from the north.

Hours prior to the battle declared, Liebenberg’s car was riddled with bullets at an assassination effort. He discovered years afterwards from the amnesty hearings of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission his prospective killers, the dark apartheid death squad that the Civil Cooperation Bureau, was commissioned to eliminate him.

It is remarkable how he continued the seriousness of idiotic photographic coverage of continuing war and protest within this age, such as breaking up the challenging story of their balances of human rights abuses by detainees who belonged to the South West Africa People’s Organisation or SWAPO.

After Namibian independence, Liebenberg proceeded on to pay the civil war at Angola, which he called the “warfare of insanity”. The stakes were quite large, the politics muddied, and individual life often disrespected.

He accompanied the MPLA forces moving throughout fundamental Angola to reconquer regions maintained by UNITA, such as Huambo.


He was always quite apparent that the story must deal with many different parties in the battle.

The first follows youthful white conscripts that are pitched to the war zone of this Namibia-Angola border. It evolves into scenes in which black and white safety forces face local people who face curfews and risks, that have their areas and homesteads ruined by armoured vehicles and shellfire, but that frequently endure with unreadable insecurities and insecurities in the face of these impositions. No additional photographer in southern Africa has recorded war this manner.

The next is more hierarchical, exploring the wake of war in landscapes and portraits. Since Liebenberg’s co-author, I was amazed in the comprehensiveness of this subject matter and also the absence of waste inside this analogue archive file.

As we labored, Liebenberg pulled another body of work that he hadn’t ever revealed, the weekend portraits shot at the Ovambo Hostel for migrant guys in Katutura township at Windhoek at 1986. These are amazing for the means by which the guys presented their absolute identity into the camera. When a few of those photos were displayed in Windhoek at 2011, as Weekends in the Okombone, there were spectacular moments of fame with a number of those descendants of these photographed guys.

This wasn’t just about love. He was speaking to the sudden psychological impacts of his own life work.

You will find deep affective consequences for a photographer coming near people’s pain, death, mutilation, guilt, despair, mourning, anger or cruelty. Maybe it made him even reckless, throwing items to the end and keeping the camera rolling as he did during the next airplane crash he underwent in Huambo province from the 1990s.

And in case you can’t reach or assist the individuals who come into the chambers of your heart, then they could be brought into the chambers of your own camera. In other words, the subject enters John’s visual universe, in which unfathomable depths and surfaces reduce several ways. That’s the reason why there’s not any single approach to read some of his pictures, and likely why many stay so haunting.

And questions remain concerning the livelihood and last plight of a pre-eminent photographer who died in hospital following a surgery at age 61 without health care benefits. Who frequently spoke of this manipulation of photographers by papers, networks and agencies. He explained that they were occasionally careless and frequently rough about the copyright which would eventually become the sole way of survival for an aging photographer along with his loved ones. A photographer whose living archive is exceptional, with the capability to open the historic memory of all countries.