Interview with David Goldblatt

In this interview South African photographer David Goldblatt discusses his latest project ‘Ex-offenders at the Scene of Crime’ which explores crime through photographs and life stories of ex-offenders in the UK and South Africa.

David was born in South Africa and has been a photographer since 1963. His work explores aspects of South African society but his present concern is with crime. David is not a social worker or a journalist; he seeks to make photographs and tell life stories that might deepen our understanding of people and their circumstances – to see people who have committed crimes not as the sudden forces and threats that many have experienced, nor as names in news reports, but as individuals.

‘I wanted to meet people who had done crime, or been accused of it, and punished. I wanted to meet them not as incarcerated criminals, but paroled or free. I wanted to photograph them not in re-enactment of crime, but in stillness at the scene of crime. And I wanted to record whatever they wished to tell me of their life. And do this not as a journalist or an activist, but simply out of a wish to know. The project was broadened when I was invited by Multistory to make photographs and I chose to pursue a similar enquiry to the one I have done in South Africa.

I am not seeking to make dramatic photographs of criminals; nor do I wish to re-enact crimes. I want to make straightforward portraits that are in some, probably indefinable way, eloquent of something that was irrevocably life changing for them, their victims and their families. I also ask those I have photographed to tell me their life story and these are shown alongside the portraits in my books and exhibitions.’

Multistory has been working with David Goldblatt since 2012 to bring his South African project to the UK. More more info see

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