S. J. 'Kitty' Moodley

'Made during a period fraught with racial struggle in South Africa, S.J. 'Kitty' Moodley’s studio portraits celebrate photography as a tool of self-representation.

The raw news photography of apartheid-era South Africa is seared into our collective memory. In stark contrast to these images are the studio portraits by South African photographer Singarum Jeevaruthnam Moodley.

His pictures, dating from 1972 to 1984, offer a rare glimpse into the private lives and personalities of people living through apartheid. Until his death in 1987, Moodley, better known as Kitty, ran a popular photography studio in Pietermaritzburg that catered primarily to African, Indian, and or mixed race clients. There, he took photos of families and identity card applicants. Migrant men sat for portraits to send back to their loved ones in the country. Women posed to inform their boyfriends that they were ready for marriage. Their ease and self assuredness serve as a timely reminder that a person—and a nation—are defined by much more than their struggles.' National Geographic