David Turnley Speaks Through Photography on Life of Nelson Mandela

December 8, 2013

By Dr. Tyra OldhamLANDsds Sustainable Voice News

Today we commemorate the life of political, civil rights and reconciliation leader who changed the lives of people around the world.  Nelson Mandela died December 5, 2013 in his home in Johannesburg, South Africa at the wise age of 95.

The life of many are memorialized by the actions of those who step forward to record the lives of the people we honor. One such person is David Turnley, American who photographed Nelson Mandela since his twenties to capture the

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Turnley spent 28 years photographing South Africa’s struggles of apartheid. Having documented the life of Nelson Mandela and his people, Turnley reflects for LightBox on his memories of Mandela on the day of his release from prison.”

Turnley shares his story as I heard it this October 25 at the Paul Paletti Gallery. He shared his early arrival on that memorable day when Mandela was released after 27 years of captivity in his 8 by 8 cell with one window.


Bottom image courtesy Chris Whipple
Top: David Turnley with Nelson Mandela at his home (2007), Bottom: Turnley with Winnie Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the Mandela home in Soweto (1985).

“I arrive in front of Victor Verster prison with my twin brother photojournalist Peter Turnley at 5:30 am the next morning. A handful of our colleagues also arrive. We go to the two Afrikaaner Prison guards at the gates of the prison, introduce ourselves and ask for their help. We explain that this day is an important day for South Africa, and for the world to witness. We propose that they allow us to create a roped off area in front of the prison, where photojournalists from around the world would stand, and that we would make sure that the decorum of this event was respected. These prison guards decide that they too want to be magnanimous on this historic day, and give us the mandate to set up our area. Hundreds of photographers and reporters began to arrive, and as we explain our plan, everyone takes their one foot of space, where we stand shoulder to shoulder in anticipation for what would inevitably be just a few seconds that we will get to see Nelson Mandela before the crowds will break and obscure the next leader of South Africa.”

“Mandela will have a state burial on Dec. 15 in his hometown of Qunu, South African President Jacob Zuma announced Friday. Dec. 8 has been declared as a national day of prayer and reflection,”  reports World News.

David Turnley is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Photography, the Robert Capa Gold medal for courage and two World Press Pictures of the Year. Turnley is highly recognized for his coverage of South Africa over the last twenty-eight years. He is also a successful documentary filmmaker, having just completed his most recent film, SHENANDOAH (available shortly on Netflix), and is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan.

Turnley has published eight books of his photography, including his last, Mandela: Struggle and Triumph (Abrams).


LANDsds Sustainable Voice is a news platform to share interconnected ideas, innovation and observation-The Nexuses.

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Posted in Africa, Art, Education, Equity, Global, Global Sustainability, Guru Voices, Health, Inclusion, Infrastructure, Social Change, Sustainability, Sustainability Nexuses, Sustainable Art, Sustainable Voice, Tragedy, Voice News, World News

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