Welcome to this 12th episode of the new Dior Talks series ‘The Female Gaze’. With the term developed in response to the writings of feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey, this podcast series will explore how the work of the female photographers and creatives collaborating with Dior offers a radically new and progressive image of women.
In this episode, series host Charlotte Jansen, a British journalist and author, speaks with Jodi Bieber, a Johannesburg-based photographer who eschews categorizations of her work and casts a singular, gimlet eye on the worlds she documents. Despite having photographed many distressing subject matters and harrowing events worldwide, she rejects the label of ‘photojournalist’ and has no interest in objectifying or typecasting people or places. From her native South Africa to Afghanistan, from women prisoners to intimate portraits of her husband during lockdown, her work is characterized by a modest wonder at the richness and diversity of human life.
Jodi Bieber was born in Johannesburg in 1966. In the early ’90s she trained under David Goldblatt and Ken Oosterbroek, two major figures of photojournalism and portraiture respectively in South Africa. Her first professional commission was to cover the 1994 South African general election, and in 2000 she documented the Uganda ebola outbreak for the New York Times magazine. She has continued to travel the world, working extensively with international NGOs, and has undertaken many commissions at home, such as her exquisitely honest images of the Soweto township. She has published four monographs of her photographs and her works feature in many major collections, including the Johannesburg Art Gallery and the Pinault Collection. In 2010, she won the World Press Photo of the Year award for her haunting portrait of Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan woman brutally disfigured by the Taliban.
Here, Charlotte and Jodi talk in depth and across the board, from Bieber’s dedication to the education of her students in Johannesburg and the unique and idiosyncratic project she undertook through lockdown, photographing her husband François in a variety of bizarre and surreal costumes. She considers the juxtaposition of the seriousness of much of her subject matter with the humor and absurdity necessary to cope with the unique circumstances of 2020. She describes the multiple faces of her hometown, the beautiful light and the diversity which makes it such a remarkable city. She also shares her razor-sharp observations about the current conditions and challenges of making images of women in South Africa and indeed worldwide and the extraordinary pictures she took of the Dior Cruise 2020 collection.