Reality according to Dale Yudelman

Capetonian photographer Dale Yudelman surprises with modesty and a super small camera

Artist's Biography

Dale Yudelman was born in Johannesburg and was barely out of his teens when he started his professional career in 1979, as a staff photographer for The Star - South Africa's largest daily newspaper. At the same time Yudelman worked on a personal project exploring life under apartheid in the suburbs of Johannesburg. After ten years working abroad in both London and Los Angeles, he returned to a democratic South Africa in 1996. His photographic series Reality Bytes and other projects have been widely showcased in South Africa, Europe and the USA.

Family encouragement was invaluable in the early years

Dale has lived and worked in Cape Town for the past 14 years. His CV bears testament to his numerous exhibitions and a string of accolades attained during his career. A recent highlight was an invitation to attend and show his work at the LUMO Photography Triennale in Finland.

Dale’s father Lou - a dentist by day and keen amateur photographer by night, occasionally used Dale’s bedroom as a make-shift darkroom to develop his black & white photographs: "I think the chemical residue seeped into my system and sealed my destiny to become a serial image maker," Dale quips.

At the impressionable age of twelve, he began to accompany his dad to the Camera Club of Johannesburg’s monthly meetings. His parents encouragement and  feedback from members of the Camera Club was invaluable in the early years. After school, Dale assisted a number of advertising photographers, whose passion for photography rubbed off on him. He gained valuable experience in the studio environment but was more drawn to the 'real' world of photojournalism. Landing a position at The Star was a turning point; he covered general news events for the next six years.

He packed his bags again and headed for sunny Los Angeles

In 1986 a State of Emergency was declared in South Africa as violent protests against the government were at the order of the day - heavy handed censorship of the media and ongoing intimidation by the authorities tired Dale and made it almost impossible to work as a photojournalist.

For the sake of sanity he chose to leave South Africa. First stop, London. Here Dale worked as a newspaper freelancer, since it was a world that he knew.  Dale remembers "being involved in a paparazzi style goose chase trying to track down and shoot Boy George," a British singer-songwriter wanted for questioning by the police at the time.

After six months in London he packed his bags again, headed for sunny Los Angeles and began freelancing for the LA Times and various magazines. The 'City of Angels' exposed Dale to live music and the work of many photography icons like Duane Michals and Elliott Erwitt. Meeting these photographers and seeing their work in the flesh was a treat. One of his highlights was photographing renowned musician Frank Zappa at his home in the Hollywood Hills.

"It’s important to keep exploring and experimenting. Otherwise boredom sets in."

With the promise of a fresh start in a newly democratic South Africa, Yudelman swapped Tinseltown for Cape Town in 1996. It was relatively easy finding work since a number of people in the industry remembered his name and a world class portfolio didn’t hurt either. It wasn’t long before he began shooting portraiture and feature work for a number of women‘s magazines.

Yet Dale is modest: "I didn’t take anything for granted. I continued to promote myself as I did in California and always strived to be professional - there‘s a ship load of photographers out there looking to make a living and one can easily be substituted for the next snapper in line. It’s important to keep exploring and experimenting. Otherwise boredom sets in."

In 1999, Dale began collaborating with artist Arlene Amaler-Raviv. Although they grew up in the same Johannesburg suburb in the 70’s, their paths only crossed two decades later in Long Street. Through conversations and having similar outlooks politically and socially, they found common visual ground and began experimenting with blending  photography and painting.

Their first collaborative exhibition 'One' was shown  at the AVA Gallery in 2000 and received rave reviews. Their work translated into a vibrant meeting of media and minds, stretching the parameters of their art. After the success of this show Dale and Arlene continued to work together for the next five years on various commissions and two other major art projects, 'Where the mountain meets the city' as well as 'Livestock' which was showcased at the Havana Bienale in Cuba.

"I believe manipulation begins early on in the process"

Dale began working on 'Reality Bytes' in 2004 - described by writer Simone Tredoux as "an ongoing series of images that portray decisive moments in a collective still - embracing fictive 'truths’ which retain the raw quality of real moments without compromising the authentic ethics and precepts required by photographic naturalism. Imbued with story-telling innuendo, satirical humor and social commentary - within a global fabric, this collection of images aims to deflect the psyche from its usual ratline, to challenge and provoke the assumptive mind. Fable and fact blend to create a new reality that dwells within the eye of the beholder."

His choice of camera equipment for working on the streets? A compact but versatile Canon G9. Proof that you don’t need big and expensive equipment to create interesting images, just an artistic eye: "A few 'old school’ street photographers manage to get their bowels in an uproar over my experimental approach," says Dale as not everyone agrees on how the concept of 'reality‘ should be depicted, "I believe manipulation begins early on in the process - the simple act of framing - what is included and what is left out of the frame is where it all starts."

For inspiration, Dale turns to music from the 60’s and 70’s. He also enjoys strolling around Milnerton Market as part of his weekly routine if the South Easter isn’t howling: "I enjoy exploring antique shops and markets in search of memorabilia, collecting what most people call junk."

by Antonia Heil

Dale Yudelman does not 'only' take pictures but is also involved in film-projects. Check out for some inspiration.

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