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Mpumelelo Buthelezi

South African photo-journalist Mpumelelo Buthelezi tells the story of the “pickers” who harvest bottles and cans, paper and plastic waste, from the dustbins and landfills of Soweto.  Although this is a complex story about racism, capitalism, population, and an environment in crisis, Buthelezi’s photographs are simple, direct looks at individual people, not generic pickers, but specific, named men and women for whom winnowing others’ garbage is a living.  While these are not "objective", depersonalized photos, they are also not invasive or pandering; they place real people in the middle of real life and the human story tells itself.  Buthelezi was born in the first year after the end of Apartheid in South Africa and his generation is known as the “born-free.”  Although Nelson Mandela’s dream of a rainbow nation is closer to reality than it was, the country and this generation still face profound poverty, inequality, and corruption that place stark limits on “freedom.”   With his camera and his activism, Mpumelelo keeps the dream alive.

"I don't strive to be someone else who is already established in the industry although I do seek advice from industry-based creatives from whom I take what's going to be useful to me in my artistic practice.  Not everyone in the game likes to share their artistic journeys and approaches, though I am always willing to share.  My approach is, as creatives, let's free our hearts from hatred, free them from worries, live simply, give more, and expect less." 


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