I was in South Africa for a week in March, shooting a photo essay, ‘Plakkerskamp’, a project to document the lives of white people living in the numerous squatter camps in and around Johannesburg and Pretoria since the end of Apartheid, 24 years ago. I have a lot of images to sort and various articles to write, so I thought I’d publish a few photographs now to ‘get the ball rolling’. South Africa was such an astonishing place; it felt familiar, somehow? But the country was also a complete culture shock… however, I shall write more about my experience over the next few weeks.
I’d like to thank, from the outset, my fixer, BJ Odendaal – without this man, I honestly could not have made the images that I did. BJ started as a fixer, driver, interpreter, researcher (all of which he excels at) and became a great friend.

All images here were made using Pentax 67 medium format. I shot on 6x7cm and 35mm film, most of which is Kodak Portra 160.

***None of my photographs may be used, in any shape, way or form, without my specific written permission. I always invoice for images used***


  1. Mark Hillyer

    I’ve been looking forward to these coming out and I’m certainly not disappointed! Beautiful portraits of a not-so-beautiful subject. Empathy with the portrait subjects really comes across in the images – great work. Looking forward to seeing more.


  2. Absolutely striking set of images in both the physical and emotional sense Phil. Eager to see and hear more. I was wondering what you said or did to make the little girl in the second image smile, beautiful.


  3. such wonderful start Phil !
    hope to see more from this series about these people – maybe to understand a little bit – why they stuck there in this condition and how happy they are with their choice or their life direction “choice” .
    thank you for your exploring


    • I feel the same way. Seeing how the country has changed in so many ways, it is interesting to understand how it happened and why they are sticking it out. But being a realist and knowing the situation with air travel and the rand…leaving might be far beyond an affordable option.


  4. Hi Phil

    What is the reason for directing your focus on this specific group of people?

    I’m not going to read too much into it until we get to read further writings from you on the subject.

    I do find it troubling when focus is given to a specific minority of non-blacks coupled with the phrase “post-apartheid”.

    We do have an immense population of people that have lived and continue to live in these conditions post regime change, and have not seen many improvements in their life situation.

    I look forward to reading more.


  5. Harry

    Why shoot in colour? Surely black and white is better suited to this type of ‘serious’ documentary type photography? It seems to me that colour trivialises what is actually a far from trivial subject matter. I’m studying photojournalism and your images fly against all the advice I’ve been given so far?


    • Thank you, Harry. I’m not sure where you’re studying photojournalism, but my advice to you would be to find another university, as soon as possible.
      The argument for only shooting ‘serious’ photojournalism in mono is a very outdated one. I shoot in colour because I want to show something as accurately as possible – how clean are their clothes? How much of that red earth is on their skin? What colour is his hair? What time of year is it?
      I respect the opinion of whoever is teaching you, but seriously, it’s a flawed opinion. My actual advice to you would be to look at the work of William Eggleston, Martin Parr, Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz, Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth, Nan Goldin and Larry Sultan. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Surely as a documentary photographer, you shoot whatever best brings out the subject – or the aspect of the subject you’re covering? I wonder if this advice is just another facet of the “film/digital” and “my gear cost more than yours = my photos are better” nonsense that photographers seem prone to?


    • Pat

      Harry, lecturers can teach you technique but it’s you who is – or not – creative, (and I’m not talking photography). Believe in yourself, use your own inspiration and vision, and go for it. Paul McCartney can’t read music but with all the tuition in the world, I couldn’t create his music. Good luck.


  6. Christian Lawrence

    I’m appalled that you feel the need to draw any kind of sympathy to these people? Do you know anything about apartheid? People talking about empathy, honesty and honour? What a joke. I suppose your next project is photographing Nazis? You’re as bad as the vullis you point your camera at.

    Christian Lawrence – Pretoria, SA


    • Paul

      I know alot about apartheid and enough to know that currently it’s being reversed. Your intelligence is obviously very low if you think these people don’t deserve sympathy and help

      Liked by 1 person

    • Pixie Bob

      There is nothing in the above writing to suggest that Phil is wanting “to draw any kind of sympathy”. If you infer such a view from the photos, it is in your interpretation – and says more about you than the photographer.


    • We are all one species regardless of colour. Just because one group of racists ruled does not mean that we should do the same. We can only learn from the mistakes of the past to present a better future for all living creatures on this planet. Taking photos of desperate people does not amount to supporting apartheid merely showing that no-one has learnt the lessons of the past. Mandela was a self-proclaimed terrorist that changed his view and the world accepted him because of his peaceful views. We are all brothers, brother!

      Liked by 1 person

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