25 January 2012

Gisele Wulfsohn – the late photography legend had a vision to expose social injustices

Maggie Friedman and Rev. Paul Verryn walking to the grave-side.
Maggie Friedman and Rev. Paul Verryn walking to the grave-side.
Gisele Wulfsohn

The recent death of the renowned photographer who used her camera to capture social injustices ranging from poverty, the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS to issues of human rights activism, has indeed left a void too difficult to fill.

The 54 year old legendary photographer was born in Rustenburg in the North West province on the 18th of March 1957. After a long battle with lung cancer, her fighting spirit finally gave-in and she succumbed to death on the 27th of December 2011.

Gisele initially studied graphic art at the Johannesburg College of Art, however, photography was indubitably her true passion. After completing her studies, she immediately established herself as a successful photographer. She worked for prominent publications such as The Star and Style magazine.

She later joined Afrapix, a photo agency formed in 1982 which brought together photographers who used their cameras as weapons against apartheid. Together they captured and documented the anti-apartheid struggle and social issues of the time.
In her last years, she spent her time as a freelance photographer specialising in portraiture, education, health and gender issues.

Her sterling work was extensively published and exhibited locally and abroad. International publications such as the Der Spegel in Germany and the US based Los Angeles Times, among others, have all featured the late Gisele. She has also worked on special projects with the South African Department of Health and the Independent Electoral Commission to cover issues such as HIV/AIDS and the documentation of the first democratic elections respectively.

She has also worked with reputable publishing stables such as Frances Lincoln Publishers, to take pictures to be used in a children's numeracy book.

The road leading to her death was not a short cut, nor was it an easy one. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 and doctors thought she had a few months to live. However, she went on for nearly a decade fighting the disease with all her might.

Gisele is survived by her husband, Mark Turpin, her sons Joe and Sam, her mother Pearl Wulfsohn, and two sisters, Diane Saulson and Susan Lazarus, and a brother Phillip Wulfsohn.

SAHA is in possession of Gisele Wulfsohn's work in the following collections:

AL2547 The SAHA Original Photograph Collection

AL2548 Jo'burg City, Whose City?

Read more on Gisele in the following articles:

Obituary: Gisele Wulfsohn: Indomitable spirit

Gisele Wulfsohn: A self-portrait of courage

Final frame for top photographer