It is with great sadness that we learned of the loss of South African photographer George Hallett on July 1st. His death came just a few days after the closing date of his exhibition “George Hallett: sound . text . image ”at the BIC Project Space (Casablanca), presented online due to the pandemic.
Born in Cape Town in 1942, Hallett began his career in the 1960s as a self-taught street photographer. His early subjects included images of District Six, a mixed neighborhood in Cape Town, before its demolition the apartheid government. This series, inspired by his peers and friends Peter E. Clarke (1927-2014) (painter and writer) and James Matthews (poet, author, and publisher), has become part of South Africa's national heritage. Among his other photography topics, can be mentioned his documentation of the cultural life of Cape Town, including the jazz scene and literary world.
Hallett left South Africa in 1970 and settled in London. There, he worked as a freelance photographer for the Times Educational Supplement and designed a large part of the book covers of Heinemann's African Writers Series until 1982. He also created a large body of work on British society, as well as an extensive documentation of South African exile in England.
He moved to France in 1974, then to Amsterdam in 1984, while continuing to capture scenes of daily life, exile, and cultures of the African diasporas.
He began working again in South Africa in the early 1990s and, in 1994, documented Nelson Mandela's presidential campaign for the African National Congress. This series earned him a World Press Photo Award in the 'People in the News' category in 1995. He then settled permanently in Cape Town and endeavored to capture the new South Africa through works as varied as the new faces of the government reflecting South African's diversity, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, through to classical dance in the township of Gugulethu, and many other subjects.
His photography work in connection with African literature is one of the inspirations behind the theme of the 5th Biennale Internationale de Casablanca. The exhibition at the BIC Project Space, curated by artistic director Christine Eyene, was his last while he was still alive.
George Hallett (1942-2020) passed away in his sleep after a long illness. The Biennale Internationale de Casablanca sends his family and friends our most sincere condolences.