Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

The Bang-Bang Club

with 31 comments

Many probably have seen the above picture, emblematic of the daring lengths photographers have to go to record an important event. However, very few people would have noticed that the photographer at the centre was James Nachtwey, one of the greatest photojournalists alive, and that the photo was taken by David Turnley — another great photojournalist covering the same event: post-election violence in South Africa in 1994. Although neither Nachtwey or Turnley were the members of the Bang-Bang Club — the notorious group of four photographers (Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek, Joao Silva) who covered South Africa in the last years of the Apartheid — they worked closely with the members of the Club.

Today, we mistakenly recall that South Africa’s transition from Apartheid was largely conflict-free. However, the backlash from white supremacists was not negligible in those tumultuous months leading up to the election:  some whites called for a separate, whites-only homeland, while others formed neo-Nazi movements. Although the anti-election Freedom Alliance gradually lost its influence, violence persisted, abetted by the police (as it was later discovered). A state of emergency had to be declared and troops had be to deployed in some provinces to help residents to go to the voting booths undeterred. The elections took place under intense international pressure (on regional presidents) and scrutiny. The election was chaotic: there was no voter registration list, and the balloting had to be extended for three days to accommodate some 22 million voters who had newly won their right to vote.

Nachtwey would win his fourth Robert Capa medal for covering the violence that followed the election as some accused election fraud. He would also witness the clash between peacekeepers and the African National Congress that killed Ken Oosterbroek and injured Marinovich.

For more information about the Bang-Bang Club, see the movie of the same name, starring Ryan Phillippe, that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

September 19, 2010 at 5:48 am

31 Responses

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  1. For a musical reference of the Bang-Bang-Club check this out:


    September 19, 2010 at 8:42 am

  2. Anyone else thinks that there are actually two photographers in the picture?

    PS: I was still a student in south africa at the time this happened. Remember some of it.


    September 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    • I definately see two, but do I also see a third?


      September 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm

      • Yep I see three

        Robert McNamara

        June 26, 2013 at 1:57 am

  3. the west too busy with such important things as the death of kurt cobain


    September 19, 2010 at 4:29 pm

  4. Just a clarification: while there definitely were elements of white supremecy about, most of the actual violence was between supporters of the ANC and the IFP, although as mentioned above, the IFP did receive weapons and money from the security police.

    frank black

    September 19, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    • Is this Comment by Frank Black the photographer?

      Etienne Bloem

      February 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm

  5. White supremacists?
    Looking at the “achievements” in post-Apartheid years, I tend to think maybe it was better for South Africans to keep “white supremacists” than to reach the rate of crime and lawlessness that plagues the country now.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LCr1ARB1wA&feature=player_embedded now.


    September 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    • The problem with your statement is that you have a huge leap of logic from “supremacy” to law and order. South Africa has sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind. Going back is not the answer.


      September 20, 2010 at 1:05 am

      • The problem with your logic is that you see no logic in history at all.
        South African black citizen, supported by world community, succeeded in throwing out white citizen – first from positions of power, then – from their homes and businesses, later, in the course of 20 years – from the face of the Earth. It is a genocide. And the world is silent – as if that’s the goal it wanted for the country.

        Ask yourself – if tomorrow your place of work offered you to transfer to S.Africa – would you go? Why not?


        September 20, 2010 at 11:37 am

    • You equate loss of power with genocide? I think I see your problem.


      September 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

      • have a look at the link I so kindly provided for your education, patricia. loss of power is the smallest, tiniest loss that happened to whites in SA.

        and before judging somebody’s “problems”, turn to your own – like baseless condescension, didactic finger-pointing and general ignorance.


        September 20, 2010 at 8:37 pm

  6. Sure my nation, USA, has problems. We are all of the human race and subject to prejudice, exploitation, finger pointing, and violence. Ignorance knows no bounds. But if someone wants to point out that the white supremacists of my country are a bunch of punk ass ignoramuses, I say, let ’em rip. They’re right.

    I have friends and family in S. Africa. All white. They haven’t thrown up their hands and abandoned their nation. It will not be a short term adjustment for SA which treated its native population like cattle for all too long. And if you seek easy answers, they are probably only the worst choices.

    In the end, I think SA will rise above this and be the stronger for it. I expect big things for the future of South Africa.


    September 20, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    • “Big things” will not happen in the future on SA if the attitude towards racism and black racism in particular will remain the same as now.

      Or, rather, “big thing” might be a total elimination of non-white population in one huge blitz -sort of “final solution a la South Africa” – would that please you?

      We must have been living in a different countries. My nation, USA, is not “exploitative”, “prejudiced” and “violent”. To understand that a person like you might benefit from visiting a place where all of it really exist – like SA, f.i. Or China. or Russia. or Sudan. Just to get a perspective, a sense of reality.

      You still did not offer any valid objection to statistics stated in teh video I linked to. No surprise: you have no argument, just a chewed-up liberal bubble gum.


      September 21, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    • oh, I just got it – you understood my words “before judging somebody’s “problems”, turn to your own” as being addressed to the country of USA!
      And I didn’t believe people when they told me liberals have their brains screwed up!

      No, Patricia, I meant you personally. Don’t shift your problems onto a whole country – it’s bigger than you and contains magnitudes

      Unfounded condescenison and finger-pointing are all yours. Your responsibility. Own up.


      September 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    • South Africa has sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind.

      And this comment comes from a Nation that killed off almost all its indiginous population…and have a history of public lynchings of black people by white! Even South Africa did not stoop that low!

      40 years of Apartheid = 20 000 politically motivated deaths. 8 000 were committed by the ‘regime’, the rest were as a result of the ANC/IFP conflict at the time of handing over power.

      The New South Africa has gone backwards in every measure of development – eg infant mortality, longevity, maternal mortality.


      October 6, 2010 at 8:36 am

      • Just see the film.


        October 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

  7. a typo in my previous comment:
    it meant to be “elimination of white population”, &&&


    September 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm

  8. The USA does not have people who exploit the vulnerable and poor? People don’t have prejudices? There is no violence? Ok. If only saying it made it so.

    As to that video, I would like to point you to the propaganda films of the Nazis where they said almost the same things about the “ignorant, uncultured” Jews. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVurfhMw1UU We all know what came out of that.

    I can see clearly now that I am dealing with a hard core racist. So I will say no more to you. Certainly none of my “chewed-up liberal bubble gum.”


    September 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    • Good. Every comment falls into my inbox, so I appreciate you not sending any more my way.


      September 21, 2010 at 4:41 pm

      • Etat – do humanity a favor – get a life and shut the fuck up


        September 22, 2010 at 9:10 pm

  9. I’d love to see the photo that Nachtwey is taking. Do you know if it exists out there?


    September 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm

  10. @riply – thank you.


    October 1, 2010 at 5:15 pm

  11. Patticia – I was there, I don’t need a movie to tell me what happened.

    50 or so white supremacists wanted a white homeland – big deal, but night after night the sound of automatic weapons split the night as the ANC slaughtered its opposition black liberation movement, necklaced (burnt to death) alleged black informers so as to intimidate the rest…………oops I forgot, they’re Marxist and allowed to kill for their ideology.

    Apartheid was seperatism – not a genocide. The ANC launched its ‘armed struggle’ in 1961 and bombed and maimed innocent women and children (with the blessing of St Nelson and the outside world) for the next 20 years. This was a civil war…………and it is what you were indoctrinated to think was apartheid.


    October 7, 2010 at 7:39 am

  12. I wonder would leftist scam on this thread dare to tell *mawm to shut the fuck up, too.
    I think they won’t: they are cowards, like all limousine liberals.

    Patricia doe not understand the obvious difference between black bandit scondrels terrorizing population of entire country and Jews persecuted by Nazis. She has porridge instead of a functioning brain: a terrible mess, with no guiding principle whatsoever.
    I feel sorry for her: it’s horrible to live with such a distorted view of the world. No wonder she has no confidence in her own country – she does not understand basic things.


    October 8, 2010 at 3:36 am

    • ETat, you’re cute. I thought you didn’t want any more of my messages in your inbox. Yet here you are, taunting me like a child poking at a bug with a stick.

      I perfectly understand the difference between bandits and rebels. But I think you need to read this story to understand the way a frustrated people were manipulated and exploited for political expediency.

      As for my own country, I have perfect confidence in it as a part of a flawed by hopeful human race.


      October 8, 2010 at 3:46 am

      • Patricia – But I think you need to read this story to understand the way a frustrated people were manipulated and exploited for political expediency.

        Do you know anything at all about the Afrikaner Nation, the people you are continually blaming…..? No, I thought not. Go and educate yourself about the Boer and British hegemony. And when you have finished that maybe you should also learn about living standards, health and education for blacks in South Africa under Apartheid as compared to the rest of ‘liberated’ Africa. It’s quite funny how the rest of black Africa was trying to migrate into Apartheid South Africa if they were going to be so exploited. Hmmm…I’ve always wondered about that.

        As for your own Nation – tell us about the Native Americans and how they feature in all the adverse statistics such as poverty and alcoholism. Maybe you should also address the African-American problems in a post-racial America before you have the temerity to critisize another nation.


        October 8, 2010 at 5:57 am

  13. Patricia, now it is my turn to say: shut the fuck up.
    I said I don’t want anymore of your idiotic self-aggrandizing messages in my inbox – so stop writing them.
    Is that too difficult a concept for you?
    Yes, princess, you and your opinions are not wanted. Believe it.


    October 8, 2010 at 11:30 am

  14. […] 1992. With the incapacitation by an Afghan land mine of Joao Silva, the last working member of the Bang-Bang Club, the world essentially lost a photojournalistic talent second to […]

  15. […] join the likes of Ken Oosterbroek, a member of the so-called Bang Bang Club of photojournalists immortalized now in a new movie. Oosterbroek was killed in 1994 while covering […]

  16. bang bang is awesome because of the tu meri song

    Yusuf Kothambawala

    October 20, 2014 at 12:08 am

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