South African photographer Singarum “Kitty” Jeevaruthnam Moodley was born into an Indian family in the province now known as KwaZulu-Natal in 1922. At the age of 35, he left his job working as a machinist in a shoe factory to establish Kitty’s Studio, a family-run photographic studio in the mid-sized city of Pietermaritzburg, which he ran for three decades, until his death in 1987.
After his death, many of the studio’s negatives were purchased by the Campbell Collections in Durban, now part of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Those deemed incompatible with the historical collection were culled from the archive and some 1,400 negatives were ultimately acquired by Columbia University professor Dr. Steven C. Dubin—and thus a legacy has been cultivated and preserved.
Dr. Dubin has co-organized a new exhibition of work, Who I Am: Rediscovered Portraits from Apartheid South Africa, now on view at The Walther Collection Project Space, New York, through September 3, 2016. The portraits were taken between 1972 and 1984, offering a new look at the history of South Africa. A passionate community activist and fervent opponent of apartheid, Kitty’s photographs speak to the love and high regard he held for his fellow wo/man.
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Photo: S. J. Moodley, [Boy with sunglasses in a chair], ca. 1978. Courtesy The Walther Collection.