Celebrating the life of Gisèle Wulfsohn


I remember standing captivated in front of the installation of Gisèle Wulfsohn’s “Living Openly” exhibition at the Tatham Gallery in Pietermaritzburg. That was early days in terms of the public’s understanding of the issues around HIV and AIDS and Gisèle’s work changed my view of the disease and who is impacted by it.
Gisèle was one of those photographers who quietly and intelligently got on with using the camera for social change. There was no fan fare, no outlandish claims, just a steady passion for the causes she took up. So it was with great sadness that I learnt of Gisèle’s passing. I knew she had been fighting lung cancer for many years. We had digitised a large group of her images in 2009 and had had some back and forth since then about metadata, and her illness had got in the way at times, but still it came as a shock to hear of her passing on December 27, 2011. She was just 54 years old.
For me Gisèle’s work was always marked by empathy for her subject. I remember at one point in time we were attempting to get more model released images to be able to supply commercial as well as editorial markets. Her overriding concern was for her subjects that they would be treated with dignity, not just in the photo shoot, but also afterward in the use the image was put to. Her sanity helped to steer our course!
Gisèle was a long-term contributor to Africa Media Online. She was always a pleasure to work with. We came to represent her work when we took over management of South Photographs some years ago. She has left a significant body of work. Our hearts and prayers go out to her husband Mark Turpin and her sons, Joseph and Samuel.
“Obituary: Gisèle Wulfsohn: indomitable spirit” by Robyn Sassen on Times Live
“Gisèle Wulfsohn: A self-portrait of courage” by Barbara Ludman on M&G Online
“Gisele Wulfsohn – the late photography legend had a vision to expose social injustices”

Above: Gisèle will be remembered for her powerful portraits of South Africans of all walks of life. This image of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi was taken in Ulundi in 1990. PHOTO: Gisèle Wulfsohn/Africa Media Online