William Matlala

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William Matlala

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20th century -


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.


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