By Francesca Annenberg

The Underexposed Photography Archiving Project was an interesting and engaging task. I decided to choose Daniel Morlong as my photographer of choice. His work spans over a wide range of themes during the apartheid era in South Africa, such as the domestic and residential sphere, weddings, beach outings, church life and boxing. Morlong focuses specifically on the black community and their day-to-day activities rather than an overt focus on the political struggle endured by the community during apartheid. Thus, he has built up a vast collection of photographs, which helped him and others to remember the past. Morlong’s history as a photographer stems back to capturing ID and license photos. Indeed, he has always had an interest in capturing the individual and the personal. I was struck with his boxing portraits posing with their boxing equipment. The images show the ordinary nature of the background life of young black boxers, a sphere of reality that apartheid denied and whiteness kept hidden. The subject of boxing in photography conjures up the idea of movement. Indeed, boxing is a sport and sport photography is often associated with movement that the camera has captured. However, Morlong decided to take very static images of the men, often holding similar poses. The majority of men are looking down at the ground holding their hands in a typical boxing punch pose, wearing shorts, while only a few wear a boxing robe.

I found it interesting that Morlong captured each individual in their own space, that is, they have their own area within the photo. Thus, each boxer receives individual attention; there is no distraction from his face and body as he occupies the whole photo. However, while Morlong brought each boxer into existence, he failed to provide any titles for his images. No single photo has a name assigned to the individual in the image. It was highly frustrating not to have any personal details of the men to add to the archive. It is also a very sad situation that Morlong did not name his photographers. Indeed, while the boxers have been brought into existence and will be remembered through images, little can be done with the images as the photographs cannot trace their history or be traced back to their families. However, this may not have been Morlong’s flaut: he lost his studio and most of his photographs and information about them during the looting that followed Brigadier Gqozo’s coup. Because there are no dates, titles or location information, I struggled to find variances between each photo due to the lack of metadata. The main difference that I could find was in their clothing: some wore shorts while others wore robes, as well as those who looked directly at the camera and those who looked away (an indirectr gaze). Those who looked at the camera holds more power than those who do not. Those who do not look at the camera are subject to the audience’s gaze and can thus can be objectified; they are almose viewed as unreal as they do not challenge the viewer with their direct gaze. When one owns their own space and are able to challenge the viewer, does one come into existence. Morlong therefore allowed certain boxers to come to life, while others did not get that oppurtunity. Futhermore, those who wore robes are less objectified than those in shorts as their bodies are less on display. The audience are unable to view the body parts of those in robes and cannot objectify their bodies.

I feel that I could not provide substantial information about the photos. And while displaying them to the public is vital in the tracing back and remembrance of apartheid and the importance boxing played in the black community, so many gaps are unfilled. Moreover, when trying to find information about Morlong on the Internet, nothing came up. I thus felt at a loss where these particular series of images of the boxers and Morlong himself fit into the apartheid history as a black photographer. In terms of displaying the photos, I decided to take a photo of a boxing ring and place the images around the composition. I wanted to give the boxers a living space in which to inhabit since Morlong did not provide details of where the images where taken. I also liked the idea of engaging with the images in a game-like way. When the mouse hovers over a star, an thumbnail image appears and when it is clicked on, a larger images appears. Thus, the title of my archive is called Blow By Blow, reflecting the two actions of the images (appearing when hovering and appearing when clicked). The title also ties into the theme of boxing.

I could improve this project by allowing the user to zoom into the images. I believe the small details within the simple compositions tell a great deal about each boxer. And if very little can be said about the names of the men, their locations and when the photo was taken, it would be useful for the user to be able observe the more subtle and possibly more telling details about each individual boxer.

see the visualisation HERE

and view more of this student’s work HERE

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