The Bang Bang Club

Copyright 2000 by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva
Published by Basic books
ISBN 0-465-04412-3
U.S. $26.00

During the final, bloody days of South African apartheid, four remarkable young men–photographers, friends and rivals–sometimes banded together to lessen the danger as they covered the violence erupting in the townships. In their powerful book, the two surviving members of the group, Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva, tell the story of ” The Bang Bang Club”, a nickname given to them by the South African international press for the fearless and sometimes reckless extremes they went to in order to capture the violent images of war on film.

The same daring that resulted in some of the most memorable war photographs of the period-and brought international fame to the photographers–came at a terrible price. In April of 1994, only days after one of the men, Kevin Carter, received a Pulitzer Prize, Marinovich and fellow photographer Ken Oosterbroek were shot while covering a firefight outside Johannesburg. As Oosterbroek lay fatally injured, Silva was torn between taking pictures of his comrade and pulling them to safety. Three months after the shooting, Carter, who was out celebrating the Pulitzer at the time of his closest friend’s death, took his own life.

In The Bang-Bang Club, Marinovich and Silva reflect on their political, emotional and personal journeys through these violent years as South Africa moved toward non-racial democracy. Along the way, the book takes the reader with the photographers on assignments to other war-torn regions, including the former Yugoslavia and Sudan, where Carter makes what has become a world-famous photograph of a starving child being stalked by a vulture.

The boldness that earned the group its nickname, that prompted them to rush headlong into dangerous situations in pursuit of an image, forces them to consider the difficult moral questions that lie at the heart of their work. For example, how far should one go to pursue an image? When should journalists put aside their impartiality and get involved? These were the moral dilemmas the four members of the Bang-Bang Club grappled with on a daily basis.