Dale Yudelman’s Very Serious Humor

Dale Yudelman is an award-winning South African photographer who has the instincts of a comic novelist able to tell a serious story while playing to your sense of humor.  Like Rian Malan and other artists of his generation, he left South Africa when it was intolerable and returned when the country embarked on its democratic path.  Since the mid-1990s, several of his projects have gained an international audience, but it is long past time that he be recognized as one of the foremost street and social documentary photographers on the planet.

The artistic stakes are high in a country with as poignant a history as South Africa, but even when Yudelman is funny — funny like Elliott Erwitt is funny — he never hides behind irony.  He’ll show things as they are — see on his website, under the project called “Reality Bytes,” the man who’s crashed his car and been projected through his windshield, though the little girl in the foreground seems more amazed that a photographer is taking a picture than she is at the accident itself.

He’ll show the country as it is:

Even as he also captures his Cape Town environment at its most romantic:

Fortunately for some high school students in Cleveland, he was in the States last autumn teaching photography — a white South African in post-Ferguson America, living in Cleveland when a 12-year old black boy could be shot by police while playing with a toy gun.  Welcome to America. He calls the resulting project “Knocking On Cleveland’s Door,” and you should go see it: here.

To our knowledge, there are no books by Yudelman in print in the States.  But there should be.  The only book of his work that we can find, Life Under Democracy, is selling used on Amazon for $1000.  A steep price for an introduction to a photographer’s work.  A bargain, though, when you realize he is a contemporary master worthy of joining the canon.

To see more of Dale Yudelman’s work, go here.

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