The Bang Bang Club


The name “Bang-Bang club” was mainly associated with four photographers active within the townships of South Africa between 1990 and 1994, Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek, and João Silva. I first stumbled upon this group of war correspondents when I found a film called “The Bang Bang club”. The film is based on the lives of these 4 photographers during the period of transition in South Africa, from the apartheid system to government based on universal suffrage (from when Nelson Mandela was released from prison to the 1994 elections). This period saw a lot of black on black factional violence, particularly fighting between ANC and IFP supporters, after a ban on both political parties was lifted.

Ken Oosterbroek, João Silva, Kevin Carter  and Greg Marinovich as depicted in the film “The Bang Bang club”

WARNING the following blog contains images of a disturbing nature

Bang Bang club


The name “The Bang Bang Club” was born out of an article published in the South African magazine Living. Originally named The Bang Bang Paparazzi, it was changed to “Club” because the members felt the word paparazzi misrepresented their work. The name comes from the culture itself; township residents spoke to the photographers about the “bang-bang” in reference to violence occurring within their communities, but more literally, “bang-bang” refers to the sound of gunfire and is a colloquialism used by conflict photographers.

In April 1994, during a firefight between the National Peacekeeping Force and African National Congress supporters in the township of Thokoza , Oosterbroek was killed by “friendly fire” and Marinovich was seriously injured . An inquest into Oosterbroek’s death began in 1995. The magistrate ruled that no party should be blamed for the death. In 1999, peacekeeper Brian Mkhize told Marinovich and Silva that he believed that the bullet that killed Oosterbroek had come from the National Peacekeeping Force.

Two members of “The Bang Bang club” won Pulitzer Prizes for their photography. Greg Marinovich won the Pulitzer for Spot News Photography in 1991 for his coverage of the killing of Lindsaye Tshabalala in 1990. Kevin Carter won the Pulitzer for Featured Photography in 1994 for his 1993 photograph of a vulture that appeared to be stalking a starving child in southern Sudan. Shortly afterwards in July 1994, Carter committed suicide, aged 33. Portions of Carter’s suicide note read: “I am depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners … I have gone to join Ken (recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek) if I am that lucky.”


 Photos taken by members of “the Bang Bang club”

In October 2010, Silva stepped on a landmine while on patrol with US soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan and lost both legs below the knee. This is the second time he’s been injured in a war-zone, with his first injury being hit by shrapnel in the face.


Photos are from the BBC image archive, Title photo is a DVD promotional image from “Entertainment One”. If you are interested in recent world history and want to know more about “The Bang Bang Club” check out the DVD

ASIN: B0052T1EF4


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