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J.M. Coetzee: Photographs from Boyhood

Monday, 19 November 2018

Source: University of Adelaide

Image caption: J.M. Coetzee, self-portrait c1955. A high resolution image is available on request.

Image caption: J.M. Coetzee, self-portrait c1955. A high resolution image is available on request.

J.M. Coetzee has a well-established reputation as one of the foremost writers of our times, but his early ambitions to become a photographer are less well known. A collection of images has recently surfaced that gives insight into Coetzee’s youthful encounter with photography, when he attempted to capture, as he put it, “the moment when truth revealed itself”.

The photographic exhibition at the Ira Raymond Room, Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide, gives insight into Coetzee’s boyhood in Cape Town in the mid-1950s and shows how photography shaped his creative development. At the age of 16, he acquired a professional camera and set up his own darkroom in which he developed and printed his photographs.

“The images show the world of the well-known memoir Boyhood: intimate scenes of life at home, candid snapshots of friends and teachers at school, and an absorbing interest in the ancestral Karoo farm. There are also several remarkable self-portraits,” says exhibition curator Herman Wittenburg, University of the Western Cape.

“Most of the photographs in this exhibition were reproduced from negatives which had never before been printed. They had been kept in storage for more than 50 years, when they were given to me. Previously I had worked on cinematic and photographic aspects of Coetzee’s writing, and edited his film scripts,” says Mr Wittenburg.

The photographs are amateur images taken at a young age, but they also show Coetzee’s ambitions to master the medium: capturing motion with high shutter speeds, shooting in low light conditions, experimenting with flash, and controlling chemical processes and exposure in the darkroom.

The exhibition has been brought to Adelaide thanks to the support of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice and University Collections at the University of Adelaide, the British Academy and the University of the Western Cape.

WHAT:           J.M. Coetzee: Photographs from Boyhood.

 Exhibition of early photographs by the Nobel Prize-winning writer.

WHERE:          Ira Raymond Exhibition Room, Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide, North Terrace

WHEN:                  Friday 9 November to Wednesday 5 December 2018

TIME:              Access to the exhibition is during limited times: generally between 2–3 pm Monday to Friday.

DETAILS:         www.adelaide.edu.au/jmcoetzeecentre/news-events

COST:                   Free.

Media Contact:

Mr Hermann Wittenburg, University of the Western Cape. Mobile: +27 (0)822 023 444 Email: wittenberg.hermann@gmail.com

Professor Jennifer Rutherford, Director, J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, The University of Adelaide. Mobile: +61 (0)435 255 739, Email: jennifer.rutherford@adelaide.edu.au

Crispin Savage, Media Adviser, The University of Adelaide. Mobile: +61 (0)481 912 465, Email: crispin.savage@adelaide.edu.au