David Goldblatt, Photography & Literature

In 2010 an unusual book was published called TJ / Double Negative. It combined a novel and photobook in one package, the photobook by David Goldblatt, the novel by Ivan Vladislavic. In our review of the book Colin Graham said 'The novel is nicely set at an angle to the book of Goldblatt's photographs' so I was intrigued to know how the collaboration had come about and how the writer and photographer had worked together. This would be the perfect way to start a season on 'photography and literature' (details announced tomorrow), so when David Goldblatt was in London last September I went along to talk to him at the Barbican Centre (against the background noise of fountains and children playing).

As it turned out the collaboration, like the actual design of the book, allowed the two works to sit next to one another without either depending on the other. The novel is about photographers – and I may have received a different account from Ivan Vladislavic – but Goldblatt was editing work he had made previously to create his own account of Johannesburg rather than responding to Vladislavic's fiction. So in this sense the project was hardly a photography / literature exchange at all. But then Goldblatt also acknowledges a historic indebtedness to the fiction writers of South Africa before other photographic influences, so perhaps the two books in one package are kindred works at a deeper and less easily discerned level.

Goldblatt himself is an impressively composed and thoughtful man. To hear more about his work and life I'd recommend this longer interview we conducted with him in 2003 which is part of our oral history archive.

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