Although I’ve been taking photographs throughout the last year during the Covid pandemic, I’ve been fortunate to begin scanning thousands of negatives that I made starting in the 1970s. Part of the collection are photographs that were taken beginning in 1999 in southern Africa. I photographed in Cape Town and smaller South African towns. In addition, I made a six-week journey throughout Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. The images presented in this essay are of supporters of the Kaizer Chiefs professional soccer team – the most beloved team in South Africa. The irony is that Cape Town soccer fans were rooting against their home team at Athlone Stadium – Kaizer Chiefs are located in Johannesburg.
I began making street photographs in 1974 and besides shooting in the United States, I was privileged to take pictures in southeast Asia and India before arriving in South Africa in 1999. I lived in Cape Town that year teaching at the University of Western Cape and walking with my camera, at the time a Nikon 8008, throughout the city – sometimes on my own and other times with friends (guides) who knew particular neighborhoods. I went to numerous soccer matches with my sons Nathan and Joel, but the day I made pictures of Kaizer Chief fans I was on my own.
In 1999, Athlone was a “so-called colored” community. During apartheid, which ended in 1994, South Africa had four legal racial distinctions, Black, White, Colored, and Indian. Colored was the equivalent of mixed-race and those communities faced horrible discrimination. Official racial distinctions were eliminated in 1994 and individuals could come and go as they pleased. Athlone remained a colored community. I was familiar with Athlone because I had friends and colleagues who lived not far from the stadium. I had walked in the neighborhood at various times and very few people were concerned when I took their pictures. That was also my experience at Athlone Stadium.
In a sense, the experience taking photographs in the stadium environment was one of total immersion. The din of the stadium was ever present as fans blew on their vuvuzelas (the horn shown in three of the images) before, during, and after the match. There was also a playful spirit as people appeared to be totally enjoying themselves – some individuals watching the match while for others it was the opportunity to party. I walked throughout the stadium taking both portraits and group shots and no one ever seemed to mind. I don’t think I sat at any time during the game, and I couldn’t tell you the score except to say that I knew the Chiefs won. I talked with the people I photographed and as I already noted, I just kind of felt the day. My goal with this photo-essay is that you too might feel the day.