The big picture: Story of a 16 June 1976 black-and-white photograph that changed everything

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

By Shaun Smillie• 12 June 2021

Photographer Sam Nzima was in Soweto on 16 June 1976, when police opened fire on schoolchildren protesting against Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. His photographs from that day – including the iconic image of Hector Pieterson – were published around the world, and although his work helped open up opportunities for other black photojournalists, Nzima left the profession as a wary and bitter man.

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Sam Nzima’s photograph of Hector Pieterson