Gideon Mendel is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading contemporary photographers. Born in Johannesburg in 1959, he studied psychology and African history at the University of Cape Town. Following his studies he became a freelance photographer and was one of the young generation of ‘struggle photographers’ documenting change and conflict in South Africa in the lead-up to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.
In 1990 he moved to London, from where he has focussed on social issues globally. He first began photographing the topic of AIDS in Africa in 1993 and in the past sixteen years his ground-breaking work on this issue has been widely recognized. His intimate style of committed photojournalism, whether in black and white or in colour, has earned him international acclaim. He has won six World Press Photo Awards, first prize in the American Pictures of the Year competition, a POY Canon Photo Essayist Award, the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography and the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism.
He has worked for many of the world’s leading magazines—among them National Geographic, Fortune Magazine, Condé Naste Traveller, Geo, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, L’Express and Stern Magazine.
His first monograph, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa, was published in 2001. Since then he has produced a number of pioneering photographic advocacy projects working with charities and campaigning organizations, such as The Global Fund, MSF, Treatment Action Campaign, The International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Action Aid, The Terrene Higgins Trust, Shelter, Leonard Cheshire Disability, UNICEF and Concern International.
In his current practice he has been working on a variety of new advocacy projects often involving a mix of photography and video. His engagement with the practice of collaborative photography is manifest in two different projects: He is the co-director of the global Through Positive Eyes project that involves working with groups of HIV positive people who use cameras to document their own lives with the goal of challenging stigma and the 3EyesOn project which is dedicated to finding innovative ways of working with young children, often from poor communities in the UK, to photograph their own lives.
Since 2007 he has been working on a major project addressing climate change, entitled ‘Drowning World’ which involves travelling to a variety of flood ravaged locations around the world. It was exhibited for the first time in the East Wing Gallery at Somerset House in London in May 2012.