Gille de Vlieg, a home-maker and a nurse, picked up the camera mid life. It was in the 1980s, when she as a member of the Black Sash stood up against the human rights abuses of Apartheid. De Vlieg tells me about how she made friends with the young activists who fought for South Africa’s freedom, and how she came to work alongside them, documenting the struggle in the township of Tembisa.
We meet on Constitution Hill, in Johannesburg, the site of the jail where South Africa’s liberation leaders were detained. De Vlieg was once detained nearby herself, at the Hillbrow police station. Today, the photographer’s work is housed here by the South African History Archive, SAHA.
“I was never really someone who went onto the front lines in a way that, for instance, the members of the Bang Bang Club did. My approach was very much to integrate myself so that I could see from behind the lines more, and really what lead people to become activists themselves; And why was it that these young people wanted to be fighting for certain rights? You know, what took them onto the streets; Why were they able to feel that they needed to confront the police, for instance, and to change South Africa?” de Vlieg says in the video on photographyanddemocracy.com