Jurgen Schadeberg was born in Berlin in 1931 and, while still in his teens, worked as an apprentice photographer for a German Press Agency in Hamburg. In 1950 he emigrated to South Africa and became Chief Photographer, Picture Editor and Art Director on Drum Magazine.
It was during this time that Jurgen photographed pivotal moments in the lives of South Africans in the fifties. These photographs represent the life and struggle of South Africans during Apartheid and include important figures in South Africa’s history such as Nelson Mandela, Moroka, Walter Sisulu, Yusuf Dadoo, Huddleston and many others who have been documented at key moments such as during The Defiance Campaign of 1952, The Treason Trial of 1958, The Sophiatown Removals and the Sharpeville Funeral in 1960.
His images also capture key personalities and events in the jazz and literary world such as the Sophiatown jazz scene with Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Kippie Moeketsi.
In 1964 Jurgen left South Africa for London and during the sixeties and seventies freelanced as a photojournalist in Europe and America for various prestigious magazines. He also taught at the New School in New York, the Central School of Art & Design in London and the Hoch Kunst School in Hamburg. During this period he curated several major exhibitions including “The Quality of Life” which opened the New National Theatre in 1976. Before returning to South Africa in 1985 Jurgen lived in London, Spain, New York and France. The photographs from this period represent a rich mix of social documentary work as well as some modernist, abstract images.
Jurgen has had a series of major Solo Shows and Retrospectives – some of the highlights include the South African National Gallery in Cape Town 1996, Dublin in 2000, New York 2001, Espace Cosmopolis 2004 , Nantes, France, Budapest Dorottya Gallery 2004, Nicephore Niepce Museum, Chalon Sur Seine, France 2005. Neumunster Museum, Luxembourg 2005, Bochum Museum 2005 , Lectoure 2005, The Pretoria Art Museum 2005 - 8 city tour, The Mandela Foundation, Defiance Campaign 1952, opened by Nelson Mandela, “Voices from the Land” 2007 major SA tour, Bayreuth Iwalewa Haus 2007, Wuerzburg Museum 2008, Belgravia Gallery, London 2008, Leica Gallery Frankfurt 2008, (Leica Tokyo, Salzburg, Solms to follow) Flo Peters Gallery, Hamburg 2009 (& 2014) Felix Nussbaum Museum, Osnabrueck 2010, Willy Brandt Haus 2011, Goethe Institut Brussels 2011, Berkeley University California 2011, KUK Centre, Monschau, Aachen, Argus Galery Berlin 2012, St Ouen Town Hall, Paris 2012, Darmstadt Kunsthalle 2014, Photokina Leica Stand 2014, Valencia University Politecnica 2014 , Goerlitz Museum, Germany 2014, Casa Cultura, Gandia, Spain 2014, Kulturhaus Osterfeld Pforzheim 2014, Moscow Lumiere Brothers 2015.
La Maison Europeene de la Photographie, Paris 2002, group show, Kunsthalle Wien, 2006, group show.
In 2007 Jurgen was awarded the Officer’s Verdienst Kreuz First Class by the German President and in 2014 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ICP in New York.
In 2014 Jurgen was awarded a Doctorate, Doctor Honoris Causa, for his life work by Valencia University Politecnica.
Jurgen has edited and published over 30 photographic books including “The Finest Photos from the Old Drum”, “The Fifties People of South Africa”, “Mandela & The Rise of the ANC”, “Voices from Robben Island”, “Sof’town Blues”, “The Black & White Fifties”, “The San of the Kalahari” & “Soweto Today” 2002,“Witness - 52 years of pointing lenses at Life” 2004, “Voices from the Land” 2006. “Jazz, Swing & Blues – 56 years of SA Jazz” and “Tales from Jozi “ 2007– six decades of documentary photography in Europe, Africa and America published by Hatje Cantz 2008, “Great Britain 1964/84” , 2011 “Jurgen Schadeberg visits Germany – 6 decades” 2012, and “Six decades of South African Photography” 2014.
Together with his producer wife Claudia, Jurgen established The Schadeberg Movie Company to produce a series of some 15 documentaries and dramas about South African social, cultural and political history.
Jurgen Schadeberg, sometimes known as “The Father of South African Photography”, is a principle figure in South African and World Photography. His major body of work, which spans 70 years and incorporates a collection of some 200,000 negatives, captures a wealth of timeless and iconic images.
Jurgen Schadeberg, in partnership with his wife Claudia Schadeberg, continues to actively work on new major photographic projects, books and exhibitions, to tour international shows and to make his own silver archival hand prints. He now works in Berlin, Paris, South Africa and Spain.