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The Bang-Bang Club, movie tie-in: Snapshots From a Hidden War [Paperback]

Greg Marinovich , Joao Silva , Archbishop Desmond Tutu
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 2011
A gripping story of four remarkable young men-photographers, friends and rivals-who band together for protection in the final, violent days of white rule in South Africa.

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Most people, upon hearing gunfire, would run away and hide. Conflict photojournalists have the opposite reaction: they actually look for trouble, and when they find it, get as close as possible and stand up to get the best shot. This thirst for the shot and the seeming nonchalance to the risks entailed earned Greg Marinovich, Joao Silva, Ken Oosterbroek, and Kevin Carter the moniker of the Bang-Bang Club. Oosterbroek was killed in township violence just days before South Africa's historic panracial elections. Carter, whose picture of a Sudanese child apparently being stalked by a vulture won him a Pulitzer Prize, killed himself shortly afterwards. Another of their posse, Gary Bernard, who had held Oosterbroek as he died, also committed suicide.

The Bang-Bang Club is a memoir of a time of rivalry, comradeship, machismo, and exhilaration experienced by a band of young South African photographers as they documented their country's transition to democracy. We forget too easily the political and ethnic violence that wracked South Africa as apartheid died a slow, spasmodic death. Supporters of the ANC and Inkatha fought bloody battles every day. The white security forces were complicit in fomenting and enabling some of the worst violence. All the while, the Bang-Bang Club took pictures. And while they did, they were faced with the moral dilemma of how far they should go in pursuit of an image, and whether there was a point at which they should stop their shooting and try to intervene.

This is a riveting and appalling book. It is simply written--these guys are photographers, not writers--but extremely engaging. They were adrenaline junkies who partied hard and prized the shot above all else. None of them was a hero; these men come across as overweeningly ambitious, egotistical, reckless, and selfish, though also brave and even principled. As South Africans, they were all invested in their country's future, even though, as whites, they were strangers in their own land as they covered the Hostel wars in the black townships. The mixture of the romantic appeal of the war correspondent with honest assessments of their personal failings is part of what makes this account so compelling and so singular among books of its ilk. --J. Riches --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Four white South African photographers (Marinovich, Silva, Kevin Carter and Greg Oosterbroek) decide to chronicle the years of violenceAostensibly "black on black" violence but actually apartheid-sanctioned violence aimed at destabilizing the ANCAthat marked the time from Nelson Mandela's release from prison to the first nonracial elections in their land. Before those years passed, two of them would be dead (one by his own hand), and their lives would be forever changed (" 'I was appalled at what they were doing. I was appalled at what I was doing' "). Heard and seen almost entirely through the voice and eyes of Marinovich, this memoir is about, in the words of Archbishop Tutu, the "remarkably cool, no, even cold-blooded" photographers who negotiated a war zone for journalistic gain and not the war itself. Although compelling, their story suffers from a lack of hard-core introspection. Even if the reader can understand the photographers' almost aloof response to the violence and death around them as they seek out bloodbaths and bodies, their manifest coldness (evidenced by both their words and their photographs) remains undeniably disturbing. For example, in one telling scene, after taking pictures of a young man who was killed and burned, Silva takes his friends to see the scene. While they look at the still-smoldering body, a woman comes out from a house nearby and throws a blanket over the body and looks at them in disgust. And when Marinovich and Oosterbroek are injured in a shoot-out, Oosterbroek fatally, their description of the events only accentuates their dispassionate point of view ("the ethic of getting the picture first, then dealing with the rest later"). B&w photos. Radio satellite tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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'Not a picture.' I muttered as I looked through my camera viewfinder at the soldier firing methodically into the hostel. Read the first page
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read Sept. 9 2002
Format:Paperback
This is a disturbing book. After the first three chapters I put it down and only picked it up again two months later. Perhaps I was just emotionally at low ebb the first time, but the brutal honesty of the descriptions in those first chapters got to me. Even though I am a South African and lived through that eventful period, I was unprepared for the honesty of the authors. At the second attempt I finished the book and am glad that I did as it is really well worth the read.
The book describes the experiences of four well-known South African press photographers, at the peak of the political transition period of the country. Of the four, only two survived. Most South Africans as well as international readers interested in photojournalism, will remember the killing of Ken Oosterbroek by a stray bullet while covering an unrest situation in the townships. And the whole world was shocked by the brilliant photograph of a starving Sudanese child with a vulture patiently waiting in the background. Kevin Carter committed suicide not long after winning a Pulitzer Prize for that image. Although the book deals mainly with their work experiences, it also provides insight in the personal lives of photojournalists. It focuses mainly on events in South Africa, especially during those eventful years in the early nineties. However, there are also references to other African countries. A few months before I read this book, I also read Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa by Keith Richburg. This was another excellent and very honest book by a black American journalist who was assigned to the African Desk of the Washington Post. The combination of these two books gives an excellent perspective on the Dark Continent and scares the hell out of you.
I can strongly recommend both these books. It is a must-read for anyone interested in photojournalism and for people interested in the political transition period of SA. People who enjoy biographies will also appreciate the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Jan. 18 2002
Format:Paperback
This is an exciting account of South Africa, as observed through the lenses of four "conflict photojournalists", roughly between the time of Mandela's release to South Africa's first non-racial elections. There is a gripping, raw and ultimately, compassionate, quality about the writing, and the photos powerfully convey the horrors that this country went through. Equally enlightening are the insights into conflict photography, and the moral issues that arise by being a witness (and recorder) of human suffering. This book would interest anyone who's ever wondered how conflict photographers get into those crazy situations, the risks they took (sometimes fatal), and the adrenaline-laced thoughts that rush through their minds.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story Aug. 30 2001
Format:Hardcover
Much more than simply a book about photojournalists, The Bang Bang Club tells a haunting tale about several young men growing up in a rapidly changing and often hostile world. The friendships that form and are later ripped apart by bullets and suicide comprise the bulk of this well-told history. That South Africa's most important history is taking place as a background only mkaes it that much more of an interesting and enjoyable read. Yes, there is some violence, but that violence defines the world these photographers live and work in.
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