Local Color

Art & Design

For 16 years, the photographer Graeme Williams has been documenting the homes of South Africa’s most impoverished citizens—those for whom the end of apartheid didn’t lead to an improvement in personal fortunes—and the result is the photographic essay, Painting Over the Present.

The most startling thing about these photos is their careful composition and graphic simplicity. These aren’t the crowded favelas of Rio or the layered decay of Detroit. Williams’ villages and towns yield desolate landscapes of spartan dwellings, shot through with jolts of expressive color.

“They are intentionally static in their composition…the bright colors captured in these photographs act as visual trinkets to momentarily distract the viewer from deeper harsh realities.” Still, they remain, he says, a testament to “individuals who seemingly refuse to be subsumed into the starkness that surrounds them. ”

Photos: Graeme Williams

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