Ian Berry exhibition 250
Ian Berry has spent his career capturing the faces of people living in a changing South Africa. Laura Davis reports
Not all pictures in the exhibition meet his self-imposed aesthetic standards. Berry was the only photographer who witnessed the initially peaceful protest in Sharpville in 1960 turn violent when police opened fire on the crowds, killing at least 69 people and injuring 180.
His photographs, which show the protesters fleeing towards the camera, were subsequently used in a trial to prove the victims’ innocence of affray.
“Actually the pictures were crap,” says Berry bluntly. “But happily they showed the police reloaded their weapons, which they initially denied, and they fired into the backs of the fleeing crowd.”
The Apartheid system began to be dismantled in the early 1990s, following the release of Nelson Mandela, who was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
Berry says his initial optimism for the country’s future has, in part, faded away to scepticism.
“I was very enthusiastic but I’ve kept going back over the years and it’s less encouraging now than it was at the height of Mandela’s initial presidency,” he says.
“I spent years running around Africa and it got pretty depressing. You’d go for the independence celebrations and then for the one party state and then you’d go back for the riots. I hope that South Africa will not follow that pattern.”
LIVING Apart: photographs of apartheid by Ian Berry, part of Liverpool’s Look 11 festival, opens at the International Slavery Museum on Friday and runs until November 6.