- (1947, 1974) 1980s-2000s (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
circa 4300 photographs
Name of creator
William Matlala is a freelance photographer specializing in Labour and Trade Union activities, who has served the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in his capacity as photographer particularly in the 1990s.
He was born and grow up in the Dithabaneng village in Mphahlele district Northern province (Limpopo). After leaving school he went to seek employment in Johannesburg. He found himself in Germiston on the East Rand where he worked in Trimpack, a food company. He started as a general worker and later trained as a machine operator. In Trimpack he joined the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and was elected shop steward as well as chairman of the shop steward committee.
Whilst working in Trimpack he became interested in photography and started corresponding with the African School of Photography in Pretoria, where he obtained a Diploma. Initially he took photographs of colleagues at work and at their home with their families, and became fully involved in community activities particularly after the company closed in 1988. He then underwent more training in the field of photography through the Department of Manpower and later at the Market theather photo workshop and the South African Union of Journalists.
He built a large photographic archive throughout the 1990s, mainly of his own photographs but also of other South African photographers like Anna Zieminski, Cedric Nunn, Santu Mofokeng, Paul Weinberg, Morice Smithers and Abdul Shariff.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Collection of photographs by the photographer William Matlala and others.
His photographs focus on workers at their workplace, union activities and gatherings, community work and social issues. It covers political event during the time of transition from Apartheid to a democratic South Africa. The collection also includes a large section on personalities from various spheres ranging from trade unions, politics, art and business.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
The photographs in this collection have been numbered in accordance with the classification assigned by William Matlala, which has been largely retained. Images in sections 1-29 have not been listed in chronological order. The captions for each photograph have been provided by William Matlala. Photographs by other photographers have been included and appropriate acknowledgements been made.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Permission to publish must be obtain from William Matlala, as well as the respective photographers represented in this collection.
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Uploaded finding aid
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
A file numbered 1a, preceding the photographic collection, contains the pamphlet and flyer of the exhibition "The Complete Worker: Everyday Lives and Struggles of Black Workers, 1983-2018, Photographs of William Matlala". The exhibition was launched at the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, on the 2 September 2018.