Acclaimed photographer Jürgen Schadeberg, perhaps best known for his photograph of South Africa’s first democratic president Nelson Mandela looking out through the bars from inside his former cell on Robben Island, has died at the age of 89, it was reported on Sunday.
“Sadly Jürgen passed away yesterday [Saturday] due to stroke/age-related issues. He was 89, had a full life, and his photos will live on,” IOL reported his wife Claudia as having said.
Schadeberg’s photo of Mandela was voted by the London Photographers Gallery as one of the 50 most memorable images of the 20th century, IOL reported.
According to South African History Online, Schadeberg was born in Berlin on March 18, 1931. He studied at the School of Optic and Photechnic in Berlin and worked as an apprentice for the German Press Agency for two years.
In 1950 he moved to South Africa to join his mother and stepfather, and in September 1951 he joined Drum magazine as their official photographer and layout artist. This followed a stint with a developing and printing company, printing amateur pictures, and a position at a studio photographing families.
Schadeberg became a teacher and mentor to some of the most creative South African photographers of his time, including Henry Nxumalo, Bob Gosane, Earnest Cole, Ian Berry, and John Brett Cohen. He was acknowledged as a leading photographer and teacher, who was open and knowledgeable about black life and culture, according to SA History Online.
He left the magazine in 1959 to become a freelance photographer. In 1964, Schadeberg moved to London as the editor of Camera Owner magazine, which later became Creative Camera.
He returned to Africa in 1972, travelling to Botswana, Tanzania, Senegal, Mali, Kenya, and Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to take photographs, and later returned to London, also working in Europe and the US.
Schadeberg returned to South Africa in 1984 and again worked as a photojournalist. He photographed many historic events, including the defiance campaign in 1952, the 1956 treason trial, and the Sharpeville funeral of 1960.