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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Jo Ratcliffe: Drives

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Art Institute / Chicago / Art

“I have difficulty with what it means to photograph people,” Jo Ratcliffe told Bomb! magazine in 2011, “the complex, often fraught, exchanges it entails.” But Ratcliffe, who is one of South Africa’s foremost “social photographers,” fearlessly approaches heavy subjects from behind her camera. In her 1987 series, “Nadir,” Ratcliffe captured apartheid by training her lens not on the people living under government-implemented racism, but on context. She photographed the ruins of neighborhoods, razed to clear space for the white minority, and wild dogs and donkeys roaming the outskirts of cities. Working from Susan Sontag’s belief that photography expresses a point of view, as opposed to documenting reality, Ratcliffe has continued to find symbols of deep meaning in everyday life. This exhibition of over 100 pieces—the first Ratcliffe survey—includes photographs dating from her earliest depictions of apartheid, later works taken in Durban, and recent experiments with video installations and large-scale color prints. —C.J.F.

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