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Cape Town Party/Sixties Style
January 22, 2011 3:14 AM   Subscribe

This is not the South Africa we dream of... (NSFW) "Using a Pentax camera with 35mm focal-length lens, Billy Monk photographed the nightclub revellers and sold the prints to his subjects. His close and long friendships with many of the people in the images allowed him to photograph them with extraordinary intimacy in all their states of joy and sadness. His images of nightlife seem carefree and far away from the scars and segregation of apartheid that fractured this society in the daylight."
posted by artof.mulata (54 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Larger versions of the images are accessed by clicking their titles...
posted by artof.mulata at 3:16 AM on January 22, 2011


Unsurprisingly, the east Asians were the hippest looking dudes in the joint. Note the guitarist on stage behind them, appears to be Indian, or "mixed race"? And the band was called "The Zhivago's", complete with grocer's apostrophe!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:24 AM on January 22, 2011




His images of nightlife seem carefree and far away from the scars and segregation of apartheid that fractured this society in the daylight. --- Maybe that's because there are no black people in his images.
posted by crunchland at 3:29 AM on January 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


Those are fantastic images, but I'm not getting a "carefree" vibe from those. More of a sense of desperation.
posted by HuronBob at 3:32 AM on January 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Maybe that's because there are no black people in his images.

Uh, yea. As a Capetonian of 28 years, I can safely say those images are a whitewash. But then, you could take photos during the day as well and you'd still have no black people in them. That's because all the Muslims, Malays, Xhosas and Indians were living in District Six.
posted by New England Cultist at 4:21 AM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]




My, coke is it.
posted by cavalier at 4:30 AM on January 22, 2011


My late dad was 22 in 1967 and running around Cape Town with his crew and from some of the stories he used to hint about I fully expected to see him in one of these pictures. Luckily I can spare my mother an embarrassing email.
posted by PenDevil at 4:37 AM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Much like PenDevil I also harboured the faint expectation of seeing my mother in these: the late sixties saw her twenties, and more than once she escaped her parents to make the drive to Cape Town. I also don't see carefree -- bias and my mother tell me that there's defiance in the big hair and the dramatic mod hemlines and the hilarious hamming-it-up going on here -- perhaps as an example that there is no real escape from any societal fracture of that magnitude. But my eye has its family biases.
posted by monster truck weekend at 4:54 AM on January 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love these. I agree that there's an air of desperation, but geez isn't there always when large amounts of alcohol, bright flashes and nightclubs are involved? Certainly there was a horrible social situation then but we might be seeing as much boredom as frustration.

Almost all of these would make for great caption contests.

I'm standing on a table. My friend failed his math exam.

At a very specific point in the evening, Roger wondered to himself if Gladys was really the right woman for him after all.

posted by jimmythefish at 6:05 AM on January 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I agree, these don't seem at all carefree to me. Some of them look desperate, some frantic, and others just happy. But not carefree.

Is it just me or are nearly all of those women hideous?

Just you.
posted by Forktine at 6:08 AM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Zefside '68!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:46 AM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Those are some rough looking broads.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:11 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who else uttered an involuntary little yelp when this loaded?
posted by fleetmouse at 7:23 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fantastic. So many stories in those faces.
posted by PHINC at 7:23 AM on January 22, 2011


Cripes!!!
posted by Senator at 7:44 AM on January 22, 2011


Seriously tribal hairstyle.

Loved the pics. Neat find.
posted by nickyskye at 7:44 AM on January 22, 2011


These are awesome. The people look so happy. I really like this one.

How are these lit? It looks like he brought in a really big lamp, but surely not? They don't look like the harsh weirdness of a normal straight-on flash, at least a poorly done one.
posted by Nelson at 7:48 AM on January 22, 2011


[Comment removed. Don't be an asshole.]
posted by cortex at 7:58 AM on January 22, 2011


Makes me want to junk my wife and kids and move to Capetown, The Catacombs (aptly named)..oh, that's right, no segregation now. If I were to go to a place like that in Capetown today, would I see:
same type of people in similar poses but still all white.
same type of people in similar poses but mixed, Blacks and Whites
same type of people but not in those poses because apartheid no longer in place

Any Capetonians know why it is (or was) called Catacombs?
posted by Postroad at 8:04 AM on January 22, 2011


My brain went here.
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray
posted by growabrain at 8:23 AM on January 22, 2011


Any Capetonians know why it is (or was) called Catacombs?

According to the comments on this photo it was situated in a basement,
posted by PenDevil at 8:23 AM on January 22, 2011


Happy or desperate? Rorschach test for MeFites. For me, it brings back memories of playing in bands for twenty New Year's Eves in a row, where the culturally mandated happiness was usually tainted with desperation, and ruined the holiday for me forever.
posted by kozad at 9:22 AM on January 22, 2011


Any Capetonians know why it is (or was) called Catacombs?

By day, it was a Pet Grooming shop.

But what a drab, shabby looking place - not much different from a township shebeen, where I imagine the people would look a little happier. One of the little ironies of the RSA.
For a wider, brighter but no less critical view of (80s-00s) South Africa: Obie Oberholzer.
posted by Flashman at 9:33 AM on January 22, 2011


Is it just me or are nearly all of those women hideous?

Just you
.

Nope, not just him, Forktine.

And I find it really hard to enjoy footage of these white people, enjoying the high life at the cost of the subjugated non-white majority of South Africa. Their society - the one wholly owned by them and their peers - brutally oppressed the others with a totality that wasn't even seen in the US during the height of our segregation (which does not vindicate the US' wrongdoings).

Here's some pics of white South Africans I can get behind.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:13 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yup, some real munters in there.
posted by the cuban at 10:22 AM on January 22, 2011


MetaFilter: Where the culturally mandated happiness was usually tainted with desperation.

Sorry couldn't help myself.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:23 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So they're all drinking coke and some sort of liquor in a square bottle. What's the story behind that?
posted by octothorpe at 10:52 AM on January 22, 2011


It's probably brandy
posted by Flashman at 11:43 AM on January 22, 2011


And I see San Francisco at the turn of the century, the (first) dot-com boom. I worked at a dot-com startup in SoMa, so we worked for nine hours and ingested lots of alcohol and other substances for nine, six days a week. (Sundays were for sleeping.) I thought we were all having a great time, but looking at those pictures now (lots of pictures!) I see the same desperation in our eyes.

Fin de siecle San Francisco.
posted by phliar at 11:49 AM on January 22, 2011


Some of these photos remind me of Degas' Absinthe Drinkers.
posted by cazoo at 1:13 PM on January 22, 2011


..brutally oppressed the others with a totality that wasn't even seen in the US during the height of our segregation

Thanks for the laugh.
posted by New England Cultist at 2:27 PM on January 22, 2011


You know how they tell kids these days not to let themselves be photographed in "candid" shots, drunk or flashing their breasts? You know, because of Facebook and getting a job?

Well, welcome to 1967!
posted by chavenet at 2:28 PM on January 22, 2011


Wow, I really wish I could have been there seems like quite a scene and I mean that in a good way. A bar in a cellar where you could smoke, at least the smoke would mask the stale liquor smells. The lighting in the photos is nuts, you can see all the stains everywhere that you would probably never see under normal bar lighting conditions.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:36 PM on January 22, 2011


Joyful and happy? More like drunk out of their skulls, especially toward the end.
posted by raysmj at 2:54 PM on January 22, 2011


IAmBroom, I share your disgust for the sight of such conspicuous revelry at the cost of such appalling injustice. However, I think it would be useful if we could all agree that sexism is not a tool that can be used to dismantle racism. As it happens, systems of oppression tend to prop each other up.
posted by philotes at 3:33 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a little old man in a threadbare suit who made his living this way in the bars in and around hells kitchen. I've only met him twice but he said he had accumulated hundred of albums of pictures people refused to pay for. He lost them in a fire that left him homeless. I suspect candid bar shots are all the same. For every one where people look great there are hundreds where people just look beet faced and plastered. I don't think these people are particularly desperate looking, some look hammered and the rest just look bored.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:17 PM on January 22, 2011


gooseberry from Eskimo
posted by the noob at 4:58 PM on January 22, 2011


hammered and bored
hammered and bored
party people in the cellar
all hammered and bored
standing on tables
slumping or floored
hammered and bored
hammered and bored
the blouses were lifted
the drinks spilled and poured
hammered and bored
hammered and bored
plastered and snockered
they danced and they snored
hammered and bored
hammered and bored
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:02 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Those are incredibly unremarkable images.
posted by spock at 6:30 PM on January 22, 2011


Those are incredibly unremarkable images.

Opinion about art is a funny thing, isn't it? "Incredibly unremarkable", eh? Heh. I found them every bit as remarkable (if not more so, since they are less staged) than many Dianne Arbus portraits, for example. I think they share a spiritual kinship with the works of that particular highly celebrated and very famous photographer. I found them incredibly engaging on a psychological level. I found them to be almost painful to look at, in their hideous, embarrassingly frank honesty. I found them to be a mirror onto aspects of the human psyche that we don't often see, and probably don't especially want to see. I found them, in their grim banality, very remarkable.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:39 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom, I share your disgust for the sight of such conspicuous revelry at the cost of such appalling injustice. However, I think it would be useful if we could all agree that sexism is not a tool that can be used to dismantle racism. As it happens, systems of oppression tend to prop each other up.

Took me a while to figure out what you meant, philotes. I find many of the men fairly repulsive, too, but that wasn't a reply to the original quote, so I didn't say so.


And, New England Cultist:
..brutally oppressed the others with a totality that wasn't even seen in the US during the height of our segregation

Thanks for the laugh.

If you think I'm kidding, you haven't learned much about apartheid. What this country did was deplorable; what SA's government did was even greater.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:50 PM on January 22, 2011


hammered and bored
hammered and bored
party people in the cellar
all hammered and bored
standing on tables
slumping or floored
hammered and bored
hammered and bored
the blouses were lifted
the drinks spilled and poured
hammered and bored
hammered and bored
plastered and snockered
they danced and they snored
hammered and bored
hammered and bored


Sung to the tune of The Seeds Pushin' Too Hard

Also, why are these images NSFW? I saw nothing to suggest even the slightest hint of sexuality, unless desperation and ennui are now considered NSFW?
posted by motown missile at 10:21 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, why are these images NSFW?

There are some naked breasts, as well as some bras. NSFW in many parts of the world.
posted by Forktine at 10:37 PM on January 22, 2011


If you think I'm kidding, you haven't learned much about apartheid.

IAmBroom - I'm sorry. No, really. I was in a shit mood this morning because of a hate crime that happened in NZ.

But do you seriously believe that the things the US did was in any way less deplorable than what happened in South Africa?

I know a little about apartheid. I'm South African. I lived there for thirty years. My generation is in constant conflict with our parents about the past and the atrocities committed by the government they supported. Trust me, we bear the psychological scars of having being lied to by the people we trusted the most. I also know a little about American History, as it is a personal interest, and part of the research I am doing for my MA thesis.

Native American history? Slavery? I'm not going to quote those famous lines on the pedestal of Lady Liberty. But I do suggest keeping them in mind and considering the current American climate and before you read the South African Constitution's current sections on equality and discrimination.

Both countries acted deplorably toward minorities, but South Africa has gone a long way in the process toward rectifying those crimes. That doesn't make anything that happened in the past better, of course. But pulling the wool over your eyes never helps you in the long run.
posted by New England Cultist at 11:31 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, really. I was in a shit mood this morning because of a hate crime that happened in NZ

The firebombing? Between that and the shit in Christchurch it's like some of us have lost out minds.

Native American history?

Yeah, that whole genocide seems to get conveniently forgotton.
posted by rodgerd at 2:02 AM on January 23, 2011


The firebombing? Between that and the shit in Christchurch it's like some of us have lost out minds.

Yea, that. It's peaceful as here in NZ, bro. Peaceful as.
posted by New England Cultist at 2:24 AM on January 23, 2011


Serious question here: can somebody tell me what "desperation" looks like? Everybody is saying you can see the desperation in these photos but I'm not seeing it. Explain to me the concept, and then where I may see it.
posted by Avenger at 5:57 AM on January 23, 2011


As HDT said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." The photographs show no wailing, breastbeating, or gnashing of teeth, but desperation is usually more nuanced than that. Had we no information about the origin of these photographs, perhaps fewer people would sense desperation in the faces of those who are engaged in what DFW called "a supposedly fun thing."

I know that doesn't help much. Facial expressions like joy or disgust are more universally readable.
posted by kozad at 11:17 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Serious question here: can somebody tell me what "desperation" looks like? Everybody is saying you can see the desperation in these photos but I'm not seeing it. Explain to me the concept, and then where I may see it."

Trying too hard. Escapism with a futility to it. A forced veneer of happiness with lingering un-fulfillment.
posted by Nixy at 6:07 PM on January 23, 2011


We drink to forget; we don't forget to drink.
posted by artof.mulata at 9:58 PM on January 23, 2011


New England Cultist, it may be an exercise in futility to argue which horrendous culture of racism is worse.

Let's just agree all racism is bad, mmkay?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:42 PM on January 25, 2011


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