Photographer and photojournalist Oscar Gutierrez has made an indelible mark photography in southern Africa. Since arriving in the region in 1994, Oscar has documented an astonishing range of events and subjects in social movements, the corporate world, politics, arts, and much more besides. In the process, he has become possibly the quintessential photojournalist in southern Africa today.
Oscar’s natural warmth, humility and good humour have allowed him the access necessary to document events of all types and sizes: intimate family moments of joy and sorrow; high-level corporate events, community celebrations, political meetings and school events; as well as many of the largest and most important political and cultural events in post-Apartheid South Africa. This exceptional access, along with Oscar’s acute instinct for the compelling image, have resulted in a portfolio of astonishing breadth, creativity, and historical value, and continues to ensure that his talents are in demand.
Intuitively a social commentator, Oscar has made an invaluable contribution to the documentation of southern Africa’s contemporary history. Through his lens we are privileged to get up close and personal with many of the greatest personalities and events the region has seen since 1994. Oscar covered the first general elections in South Africa in 1994; Mozambique’s first general elections after the country’s independence from Portugal; and living conditions of Mozambican refugees in Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa.
In 1995, Oscar volunteered to document the living and working conditions of mineworkers in South Africa for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), working in close collaboration with Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of South Africa and Deputy President of the African National Congress. While doing so, he conceived and initiated a project to train ex-mine workers in photography, and raised funds from the Canadian Mine Workers Unions to support the project.
Oscar’s commercial work spans projects for Constitution Hill (home of South Africa’s Constitutional Court), Ogilvy Publications, the South African Electoral Commission, LoveLife TV, Mott Foundation, Coca-Cola, The Oprah Magazine, Mobil Oil Africa and Zero Tolerance TV.
Music is a passion of Oscar’s, as attested by his archive of imagery of South African musicians. (It’s been said that virtually any musician who has ever set foot on stage in South Africa has ended up in Oscar’s dark room.) Covering performances ranging from the tiniest and most spontaneous jam session to many of the largest headliner concerts, Oscar has thoroughly documented the period of South Africa’s musical democracy, developing in the process one of the most extensive contemporary photographic archives of South African music in existence. Since 1995, he has also been the photographer of leading jazz venues and festivals from The Bassline and Orbit to Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
Originally from Guatemala, Oscar has lived and worked in Latin America, the Caribbean, Israel, Canada, the United States and southern Africa. His extensive formal training includes a Bachelor in Fine Arts, specialising in photojournalism, from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, as well as MA candidacy in Fine Arts. He has taught and lectured photography in various locations and ways. His technical expertise was developed at diverse organisations, from Kodak to the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).