South African photographer Jansen van Staden’s dialogical and personal project ‘Some’ investigates the entangled and horrible histories of his country’s past and grapples with how to navigate this when you are a young white person today. In order to connect with the loaded past of apartheid his work explicitly engages with David Goldblatt’s seminal work, Some Afrikaners Photographed, published in 1975 to bring the heavy heritage into focus.

“I am taking up the position that I’m just some Afrikaner. I am a consequence of Apartheid and everything that led up to it.  I’m not denying this heritage. I am here, and as horrible as the past has been, I am here because of it. And these photographs are but my attempt to try to understand my position, now, in South Africa.”

— Jansen van Staden


A conversation between past and present

Project: Some, by Jansen van Staden

South African photographer Jansen van Staden intricately weaves together the political complexities of post-apartheid South Africa in his project Some, drawing inspiration from his country man photographer David Goldblatt’s seminal work, Some Afrikaners Photographed, published in 1975. Van Staden’s dialogical work Some builds on more than a decade of photographic work, a complex task to, and in the artist’s words “contribute his sentence to the canon,” offering a unique perspective on the Afrikaner identity and the ever-evolving socio-political landscape of his homeland.

Jansen van Staden // Some

Exploring the controversial and contradictory past of being a white South African

Identifying himself only as “some Afrikaner,” and furthering this idea by choosing to omit his name from his own book, Van Staden confronts the contradictions inherent in his community, a theme rooted in David Goldblatt’s exploration during the apartheid era. The work done in the 1970s uncovered the paradoxes of a people, kind, religious, resilient, yet staunchly racist. Van Staden extends this conversation, immersing himself in the reality of contemporary South Africa to inform his photographic process. 

“I chose to make the connection as a way to talk to Goldbaltt and his work. His photographs are very much alive. I only met him once, very briefly and I felt, as a photographer, insignificant. What he showed in his book, was at the time, a revolutionary act. An act against the Apartheid government, and against the ideals with which they had poisoned themselves and the Afrikaner community. I can imagine, if one was a slightly open-minded Afrikaner then, that reading his book was an awakening of your contradictions.”

In navigating the complex subject matter, Van Staden grapples with the concept of social and political impact. He challenges the notion, expressing a more humble hope that his work will be seen and, with time, understood. The photographs in Some capture the twisted, confusing reality of post-apartheid South Africa.

Jansen van Staden // Some

Rejecting the ‘Goldblatt-aversions’

“Goldblatt was an outsider. He was not Afrikaans. But he looked at us and after developing relationships with Afrikaners during Apartheid, he probably also thought ‘What is going on here?’. I think that could be my ticket to relate. I am South African. I am African. I am white. Still, I feel like an outsider looking at the Afrikaner. A lot of the Apartheid-Afrikaner nonsense, cliches, and contradictions Goldbaltt explored have had the potential to develop within me. But because of some good fortune and tough events, my life has turned out in such a way that I was free from inheriting this crap. Something I am very aware of and extremely grateful for.” 

Shaped by the echoes of the past

In constructing the narrative for Some, Jansen not only captures a visual chronicle of South Africa’s post-apartheid era but also offers a nuanced and distinctive perspective on the intricate tapestry of history, identity, and the multifaceted socio-political landscape that defines the nation. His lens becomes a powerful tool, not just for documentation, but for crafting a profound visual dialogue.

As the images unfold, Van Staden’s work becomes a mirror reflecting the evolving landscape of a post-apartheid era. History becomes a living entity, constantly shaped by the echoes of the past and the palpable uncertainties of the present. The photographs serve as a visual testament to the resilience of a nation grappling with its complex heritage, shedding light on the ongoing process of reckoning with historical legacies and forging a path toward a more inclusive future.

Jansen van Staden // Some


“The connection is rooted within the basic concept of cause and effect. Things happened in apartheid and we're still dealing with it. It’s an educational process, talking with strangers, engaging with family and arranging them within these four corners. The more I learn about the histories of South Africa, the impact of it on the present, the more I become aware of my position in society, the privileges that accompany it and the freedom of hopelessness and acceptance."

— Jansen van Staden

Text and edit · Felipe Abreu and Christine Almlund

Strongly influenced by his skateboarding background, South African photographer Jansen Van Staden uses street photography as a conceptual entry point to reflect on personal imaginaries and social constructs of belonging and disconnect. Van Staden is a fellow from the Photographers’ Masterclass of the Goethe Institut.

Selected achievements

  • – 2023 Rencontres d’Arles Dummy Book Award, shortlisted
  • – 2023 Kassel Dummy Book Award, shortlisted
  • – 2022 Rencontres d’Arles, “If a Tree Falls in a Forest”,
  •    exhibition curated by the Untitled Duo
  • – 2021 Charta Dummy Book award, winner
  • – 2019 CAP prize, winner