Benny Gool

Benny Gool was an anti-apartheid activist who turned to photography as an outlet for his anger. Because he was an activist he knew where things were happening; his archive contains hundreds of unique photographs. There were seldom any other photographers there. His early photographs were published in the banned underground newspaper, Grassroots. Through his lens, South Africans were exposed to the gritty reality of the turbulence of the times, the street battles, the defiance campaign, the release of prisoners, the euphoria, the negotiations, the despair.

When South Africa began to change in 1990, Gool – with his access to the network of activists who now stood at the threshold of power – was quickly employed by the Independent Newspapers title, the Cape Times. He became the recipient of a number of national photography awards, including South African Press Photographer of the Year, and a Ruth First Award for Courageous Journalism.

After a brief stint at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, where he received training in television camera and lighting technique, Gool returned to the Cape Times to take up a position as an Independent Newspapers special assignments photographer. He documented the transformation of public institutions from parliament to Robben Island, he covered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, his shocking photographs of gang violence were published around the world.

In 2000, Gool resigned from his position as photo editor for the Cape Times to establish the digital multi-media agency, Oryx Media Productions. He works in still photographic and television formats, and as a media strategist.

Gool’s photographic exhibitions include Building a New South Africa: Images of Change (1994), True Colours, a photo/text examination of racial attitudes in the democratic era (1996), Celebrating 10 Years of Democratic Parliament (2004), and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Coventry, UK, 2004).