A leading contemporary photographer, Gideon Mendel’s intimate style of image making and long-term commitment to projects has earned him international recognition and many awards, most recently the Pollock Prize for Creativity.
Born in Johannesburg in 1959, he studied Psychology and African History at the University of Cape Town. He began photographing in the 1980s during the final years of apartheid. It was his work as a ‘struggle photographer’ at this time that first brought his work to global attention. In the early 1990s, he moved to London, from where he continued to respond to global social issues, notably his longitudinal project on the impact of HIV/AIDS. That photographic odyssey began in Africa and expanded to numerous other countries during the last twenty years. The concluding and ongoing chapter, Through Positive Eyes, is a collaborative project in which Mendel’s role shifted from photographer to enabler, handing over his camera to HIV-positive people.
His first book, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa was published in 2001. Since then he has produced a number of photographic advocacy projects, working with charities and campaigning organizations including The Global Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières, Treatment Action Campaign, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Action Aid, the Terrene Higgins Trust, Shelter, Leonard Cheshire International, UNICEF and Concern Worldwide.
Mendel has worked for many leading magazines—amongst them National Geographic, Fortune Magazine, Condé Naste Traveller, Geo, The Independent Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, L’Express, Stern and Rolling Stone.
Since 2007, Mendel has been occupied with Drowning World, an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to climate change. This work has been applauded for its unusual approaches to portraiture and the development of a variety of visual strategies and elements, including video, to deepen the impact of the endeavor.
His work is increasingly being seen in a variety of gallery contexts, with some of his earliest work from South Africa included in the ongoing Rise and Fall of Apartheid touring exhibition. Drowning World has featured prominently at the ICP Triennial and Picture Windows installations in New York, as well as in numerous other public installations, photo festivals and galleries.
Amongst many accolades, Mendel has won the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, six World Press Photo Awards, first prize in the Pictures of the Year competition, a POY Canon Photo Essayist Award, the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism and he was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Prize 2015 for Drowning World.