Chris Ledochowski was born in 1956 in Pretoria. He grew up in Johannesburg and from 1968 to 1974 he attended Waterford- Kamhlaba, a non racial boarding school in Swaziland. After completing his O and A Level Cambridge Certificates, Ledochowski attended the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts in Poland for several months as a visiting student. In 1975 Ledochowski returned to South Africa to undergo conscription in the South African Defence Force.

From 1977 to 1980 Ledochowski studied to obtain a diploma in Fine Arts at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town (UCT) where he majored in photography. In his final year project he documented the community of Harfield Village who were forcefully removed under the Group Areas Act. This first portrait project was to define his approach to documentary photography, placing the accent on a two way dialogue between photographer and subject. This relationship, based on the premise of mutual trust as well as sharing in the ownership and control of the images, has since been ever present in his photography. Artistic versus social and political considerations pervade Ledochowski’s work.

In 1982 he moved to Johannesburg where he co-founded Afrascope, an alternative documentary film unit based in Khotso House. The unit’s objective was to document the political developments of the time and was subjected to security raids. He returned his attention to photography and began what was to become a long term project in Nthabalala, Venda, documenting the life of an ex migrant worker.

In 1983 Ledochowski joined the Afrapix Phtographic Collective and Agency and returned to Cape Town to pursue his documentary work in the townships and squatter camps. He also established the film and video unit for the Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development as part of the South African Labour Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town. In 1985 he contributed to The Cordoned Heart, an exhibition and book of essays by twenty South African photographers, prepared for the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in Southern Africa.

While photographing in the townships Ledochowski also began taking commissioned portraits which he then hand painted and framed for clients. A selection of these portraits was exhibited in 1986 at the Market Photo Gallery, Johannesburg, in a solo show entitled Hand Coloured Portraits from the Cape Flats. In the mid eighties he began his extensive documentation on the formation and development of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and affiliated unions in the Western Cape which continued into the early nineties.

Meanwhile, Ledochowski continued his relationship with SALDRU, UCT, working on the Atlantis Project, documenting the community of Atlantis north of Cape Town and producing a travelling exhibition entitled Atlantis - A Utopian Nightmare.

In the late eighties he worked for a number of years in the township of Mbekweni outside Paarl, in conjunction with the Critical Health Project and the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU). In 1988 he co-established the Cape Town Branch of Afrapix Photo Agency at Community House and held photographic workshops for the Cape Artists Project’s (CAP) Media Project.

In 1990/1 Ledochowski edited and produced the Children’s Exhibition for Afrapix, in conjunction with a children’s organisation in Cape Town. The following year he co-researched, edited and printed the Mzabalazo Pictorial History of the ANC for the Mayibuye Centre, University of the Western Cape (UWC), producing an exhibition and publication. During the same year he completed the second stage of his project in Venda and his exhibition Ten Years After - A Return to Nthabalala Village, Venda, was exhibited in 1993 at the Mayibuye Centre, UWC and later at the Bat Centre, Durban, in 1996.

From the late eighties to mid nineties Ledochowski worked towards an exhibition hand colouring his documentary photographs from the Cape Flats and produced ceramic frames for them in collaboration with ceramicist Joe Faragher. Hand Coloured Photos in Ceramic Frames: A Collaboration between Photographer and Ceramist was exhibited in 1995 at the Cape Gallery in Cape Town, Museum Africa, Johannesburg 1996 and Grahamstown the following year.

In the late nineties, Ledochowski was invited to participate in a group project by The Netherlands Architectural Institute for the exhibition: Blank_ Architecture - Apartheid and after. He revisited the theme- Rural/ Urban- which he had been documenting for several years in rural Pondoland and the squatter camps of Cape Town.

In 2000 Ledochowski was invited to participate in a documentary project commissioned by The President’s Office on the state of the child in SA. He covered the rural region of the former Transkei. The result was a group exhibition- Every Child is my Child.

Another long term project undertaken by Ledochowski was to document in colour the art and cultures of the Cape Flats townships which he began in the late 1980s. This culminated in the publication of a book Cape Flats Details in 2003. That year Ledochowski was invited to exhibit photographs from the project at the 50th Venice Biennale. This was facilitated by Michael Stevenson Contemporary in Cape Town. The work was later exhibited at the Polish Institute in Paris and The Visiting Gallery in Warsaw.

In 2005 Ledochowski returned to Nthabalala in Venda for the third stage of his long term project documenting the life of Mr Petros Mulaudzi whom he has known for most of his life. In this project he attempts to engage in a personal dialogue with his subject over time, and reflects on the process of documentary photography. He aims to finally compile the photo visits into a publication.

He continues to revisit a number of earlier projects as well as contribute to exhibitions.

Contributions to Group Photographic Exhibitions

2011 - Cape Flats Details  Kalk Bay Contemporary, Cape Town.

2010 - From Pierneef to Gugulective. SA National Gallery Cape Town.

2010 - Goema and Glitter. Good Hope Gallery.

2010 - Essay entitled ‘Nthabalala Village’. Bonani Africa 2010 Festival of Photography. Cape Town Castle of Good Hope.

2010 - Slave Lodge, Iziko, Cape Town.

2008 - Mandela- Leader, Comrade, Negotiator, Prisoner, Statesman. Apartheid Museum. Johannesburg, 2009-Nelson Mandela Museum, Mthatha, Malmo Museums, Sweden

2007 - Cape Town International Conference Centre.

2004 - ‘Cape Flats Details’- Autres Lieux, Autres Regards, Pologne-Afrique - A group exhibition of Polish photographers in Africa; Jan Czekanowski, Casimir Zagourski, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Chris Ledochowski. Mois de la photo. Institut Polonais, Paris. France.

2003 - Curator of the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival- Duotone Gallery.        

2003 - 50th Venice Biennale. ‘Structure of Survival’. Curated by Carlos Basualdo. Italy.

2002 - Nelson Mandela Gateway Exhibition. Waterfront, Cape Town.

2001 - 'Every Child is my Child' Exhibition. Commissioned by The President’s Office, Pretoria                

2000 - Nelson Mandela Museum Exhibition, Umtata. Transkei. Nelson Mandela Monument, Umveso,Transkei.

1998 - Blank_ Architecture, Apartheid and after. The Exhibition. Netherlands Architectural Institute. Rotterdam, Holland. MuseumAfrica, Johannesburg. 2000.

1998 - 'L’ Afrique par Elle - Meme'. Maison Européene de la Photographie. Paris.

1997 - 'Potosynthesis - Contemporary South African Photography' SA National Gallery, Cape Town, Grahamstown Festival, Kulturhuset, Sweden.

1997 - 'Contemporary South African Art, 1985-95'. SA National Gallery. Cape Town.

1996 - ‘Robben Island Reunion’ Exhibition. Mayibuye Centre,  Waterfront, Cape Town.

1995 - Rotterdam Photo Exhibition. Holland.

1994 - 'Shifting Landscape' Exhibition, Rotterdam Photo International. Holland.

1994 - 'Bride In Art Exhibition', Irma Stern museum. Cape Town.

1993 - ‘Beyond the Handshake- SA in transition’, Europe, SA

1993 - 'Shaking Hands' Exhibition, Weekly Mail Book Week. Cape Town.

1993 - 'Picturing our World', South African National Gallery. Cape Town.

1992 - Contributed and co edited and produced the 'Mzabalazo, History of the ANC' Exhibition. Mayibuye Centre, University of the Western Cape. 

1990 - Produced, curated and edited the 'Vumani /Afrapix Childrens' Exhibition'. South African National Gallery Permanent collection.

1989 - 'Taking Sides' Exhibition , Holland.

1988 - On the Frontline, Childrens’ Exhibition ,Radda Barnen, Sweden.

1988 - The Forbidden Camera, Kaza Exhibition, Amsterdam. Holland.

1987 - ECC Exhibition. Cape Town.

1987 - 'Atlantis, The Utopian Nightmare' and 'Mbekweni, Paarl'. Two photo essays at 'Documentary Photography in South Africa', Exhibition and Conference, Centre for Documentary Photography, University of Cape Town.

1986 - 'Images of South Africa- Eight South African Photographers'. Shell Gallery, Baxter Theatre.

1984 - ‘South Africa-The Cordoned Heart' Exhibition.  Carnegie 2nd Inquiry into Poverty and Development in South Africa. Exhibited in SA, USA, UK, Europe.

1981 - Afrapix / Staffrider Exhibition. Johannesburg.

1980 - Harfield Village. A community under threat of Group Areas. Michaelis School of Fine Art. Cape Town University.

Solo Exhibitions 

1986  ‘Atlantis - A Utopian Nightmare’.
Atlantis. Western Cape.

1986  ‘Hand Coloured Portraits from the Cape Flats’, Market Photo Gallery. Johannesburg

1993  ‘Ten Years After; A Return to Nthabalala Village’
University of the Western Cape. Bat Centre, Durban, 1996.

1995  ‘Hand Coloured Photographs in Ceramic Frames’. A collaboration with ceramicist Joe Faragher.
Cape Gallery, Cape Town.
Museum Africa, Johannesburg, 1996.           
Grahamstown, 1997

2003  ‘Cape Flats Details. Life and Culture in the townships, Cape Town’.
Michael Stevenson Contemporary, Cape Town.
Photo za, Johannesburg
Visiting Gallery, Warsaw, Poland, 2005

Productions

1982  Co-founded Afroscope, an alternative documentary film unit based in Khotso House.

1982-2010  Initiated a 30 year project documenting the life of a migrant worker in Venda.

1983  Established the film and video unit for the Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and  Development as part of the South African Labour Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town.

1985  Established a portrait business in the townships, taking the photographs, hand colouring and framing.

1985 1990 Extensive documentary project on the activities of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and affiliated unions in the Western Cape.

1986  Co initiated Atlantisproject with the  South African Labour Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town, documenting the community of Atlantis north of Cape Town and produced a travelling exhibition entitled Atlantis- A Utopian Nightmare.

1988  Co-established the Cape Town Branch of Afrapix Photo Agency at Community House and held photographic workshops for the Cape Artists Project’s (CAP) Media Project.

1990  Edited and produced The Children’s Exhibition and calendar, for Afrapix, in conjunction with a children’s organization, Vumani, in Cape Town.

1991  Co-researched, edited and printed the exhibition Mzabalazo Pictorial History of the ANC for the Mayibuye Centre, University of the Western Cape.

1992 Co edited and printed the Krige Collection on Modjadji the Rain Queen for the National Museum, with fellow photographer Paul Grendon.

1995  Initiated project hand colouring/painting B&W prints of documentary images taken in the townships and designed and produced ceramic frames for them.

1990s  Initiated ten year project to document the visual art and cultures of the Cape Flats townships, specifically using colour photography.  

References

Ledochowski, C. (2003) Cape Flats Detail: Life and Culture in the Townships of Cape Town. Pretoria: South Africa History Online & UNISA Press.

Sources in Our Archive

Collections in the Archives