Photographs displayed were taken by Steve Bloom in 1976, when cracks in the apartheid system were beginning to show. Students looked at the photographs, which many found distressing and disturbing and noticed that one photograph of a shanty town shot in 1976 looked exactly like a shot in the opening of District 9 (2006), one of our Film Studies GCSE texts. We couldn’t believe our luck when we were told that Steve Bloom himself was in the museum and we were given the opportunity to ask him questions about his work.
One student asked: Is it hard to not feel bad when taking photos of the situations? And is it hard to get the shots of people when they are not happy?
Steve replied: It is very! You also feel their emotions but usually cannot do anything to help them. It is also difficult to get natural faces of people however they were at the time not that used to people taking photos as cameras were more unusual, especially in those areas.
The students seemed to be most concerned with the ethics involved in taking the photographs, they asked how the subjects felt about being photographed and came to understand that, just like Neil Blomkamp- the director of District 9- Neil Bloomfelt he had a duty to expose the suffering created by the apartheid. After the exhibition, students had a quick look around the rest of The Beaney Museum and found medieval costumes to dress up in and even joined in with some carol singing.
All that culture made the students (and teachers) rather hungry so we headed for HatHats Coffee before getting the train back to Rochester. Upon arriving in Rochester we stocked up on popcorn for a screening of District 9, we watched the whole film together and then discussed how the film could be seen as a metaphor for the apartheid and reflected upon the effectiveness of the film.