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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vexing story of South Africa's transition to majority rule
The Bang Bang Club is the story of four young South African photographers who developed an uncanny skill and reputation for coverage of the bloody events that marked the country's transition from apartheid to majority rule. It is an exciting, gripping, 'heart in the mouth' read.
The book has two tracks; the development of the four men from varied and, in some cases,...
Published on 9 Sep 2001 by bruce.davidson@btinternet.com

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3.0 out of 5 stars A good book
This is a good book but is one only for people interested in the lives of the photographers in the club. Some parts are very harrowing but interesting. Looking forward to watching the film version.
Published 8 months ago by Paul Hodson - Walker


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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vexing story of South Africa's transition to majority rule, 9 Sep 2001
The Bang Bang Club is the story of four young South African photographers who developed an uncanny skill and reputation for coverage of the bloody events that marked the country's transition from apartheid to majority rule. It is an exciting, gripping, 'heart in the mouth' read.
The book has two tracks; the development of the four men from varied and, in some cases, dysfunctional backgrounds, to prominence in their chosen profession. Along the way, they were drawn to each other because of their skills, their drive and ambition. Sometimes they worked together, but always their was a sense of competition, as evidenced by the frustration Jaoa Silva experienced at missing the shot that won Kevin Carter a Pullitzer prize - a vulture sitting in the Namibian bush, watching and waiting for a very young boy to die. Together they tried to come to terms with the enormity of the events that they were covering and also their role as chroniclers. Carter's drug problem and suicide came about because of an inability to deal with the emotional stresses.
On another level, the Bang Bang Club provides an explanation of how the country came to be at war with itself between 1990 and 1994, and the role of the incumbent white regime (trying to spread dissension); the ANC (negotiating with the government) and the Inkatha movement, representing the Zulu tribe and the country's transient hostel labour force. Marinovich's antipathy to the system of white rule is clearly expressed, but it does not get in the way of an objective narration or recording of events.
The book is also quite disturbing, leaving the reader to deal with a number of uncomfortable thoughts.
Many war photographers including those such as the celebrated Don McCullin, have struggled with the professional task of recording events and the consequent dissociation from the reality occurring in front of them. It seems that Marinovich sometimes could not believe that he had observed ANC supporters attack and then burn a suspected Inkatha member, Lindsay Tshabalala. A picture that won him the Pullitzer Prize. What must have been going through his mind?
The four members of the club courted danger. Sometimes they were in battle zones with bullets flying, and this is how Ken Oosterbroek lost his life; at other times they were witnessing the most horrific aspects of mob rule. It would not have taken much for the fury of the mob to have shifted to these white interlopers. What sort of courage and personality is it that pushes these guys to places where most 'sensible' people would not dare to tread?
And then there is the sheer scale of the violence being witnessed. It is something of a cliché that 'life is cheap' in Africa, but this does not explain the propensity for violence documented here- the slashing of a man's tendons behind his knee so that he could not run away from his would-be executioners. What sort of grief must have possessed Brian Mkhize when he met with Marinovich in a ditch the night after eleven of his relatives had been massacred? Perhaps it is no different from what we have been learning of the violence in the Balkans, in Ireland or any other war zone, but still it is shocking to see how men can so easily be consumed by hatred and violence.
The book helps to think through some, but not all, of these questions. For example, it seems that the photographer's sense of powerlessness to stop or change what is going on around him, is one of the emotions which is most difficult to deal with. The book is a powerful narration of these personal and political events, and no worse for leaving the reader with these questions and concerns.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bang-Bang Club about people not war, 21 Jun 2003
By A Customer
I found 'The Bang-Bang Club' a very powerful and moving book. It gives a personal and honest view of a difficult period in all the authors’ life with the backdrop of a chaotic and disturbing period in world history. The book is jointly written by two photographers but follows the life’s of four photographers mainly constricting on there joint time in South Africa. I started the book thinking that they were heroes, the pictures that they took were horrifying and they rest they life’s to let the world see what was happening. The book adds depth to this view, it turns the heroes into real people with there own problems. It show how they coupled with death on a daily basis, they thought they were invincible. This changes when a stray bullet shoots one of the group. They then have to try and deal with there own problems, in there own way, some manage some do not. The fact that the amazing photos were not taken by ‘heroes’ but real people makes their photos more powerful not less. I found the book fascinating not only for adding an other view to the conflict in South Africa but also giving me insight into what these amazing people go though. A must read for anyone who wants to try and under people better (that I hope is everyone!)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 20 Aug 2002
By 
cerise (Uk , Salisbury) - See all my reviews
This is undoubtably the best read, its honesty and real life actions ans accounts captivated me! Having grown up in Africa i have never come accross a book which has told the whole or real truth of events.
It keeps you engrossed throughout every page and helps people really widen their knowledge of circumstances occuring around the world.
A fantastic account from two surviving friends in a job which...well some one has to do to allow for the world to keep in touch with reality.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't want to, but you have to..., 4 July 2001
By A Customer
I felt guilty reading this amazing book. Guilty that I was a voyeur into this seemingly heartless and capitalistic business of war and its capture onto b&w film for the business of glory and resale. I didn't want to like the photographers, but lord knows I did, and that also makes me feel guilty. I feel shocked, violated, and conspiratorial.I feel like that vulture. This is a riveting book, one which draws you in and puts your eye to that camera. We have to question the whole business of 'war reporting' but we all do jobs that are to the detriment of our perceived morals. I feel sorry for Kevin Carter especially, though he's possibly the least likeable character in this book. The most honest, arguably, but the most unlikeable. I have a thousand feelings about this, about my life, and about the world. I'm glad I read this and became a part of it.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reveals what you never knew about the end of the apartheid, 19 May 2002
By A Customer
This is a truly great book, revealing, heart rending, occasionally horrifying but genuinely written. This tells the tale of a small group of photographers who made their names photographing the street battles that broke out in the townships of Johannesburg. It also gives insights into the complex politics that grasped South Arica during the time after Mandela's release. I couldn't put it down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 28 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Having spent time in the South African army during the run up to the elections and having spent time in the Locations, reading this book was like reliving that time of my life all over again.This is brilliant.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb insightful book, 5 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This a moving gripping book, documenting four local based 'war' photographers lives through the South Africa's troubled transition from apartheid to democratic governance. A book of rare depth and insight, for readers wanting to understand a little more of what we viewed through the news media and possibly even viewed their pictures first time round. This book documents incredible individuals what they went through, what it meant for them, even when what they did caused misrepresentations to come out of what was really going on.
This book cracks the door on what went on and why in this most troubled of world troubled spots and what perhaps are even going on in a number of places today.
I could go on about who should read this book and the list would be very long (media types, photographers, sociologists, aid workers, governments who wish to do the right thing, people interested in South Africa to name but a few), but most of all this book should be read by people I've met who go on about what a great place South Africa is or was, yes, they are generally white and distinctly middle class, I recommend it to you, I hope it opens your eyes.
Not a book to read to feel happy about life, but an absolutely essential avid read. Like Fergal Keene says on the front of the book, 'I cannot recommend it highly enough'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for sensitive readers, 23 Jan 2010
By 
Julie Barnard (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
Shew! What to say. Being South African myself and growing up in the time this book was written, it really opened my eyes. We, ourselves, were well aware of the violence that was taking place in South Africa, but were not exposed to it and therefore had no actual understanding of the situation.

This book really gets into the lives and the trauma caused by the political strife occurring in SA between 1990 and 1994. It also gives you a new found respect for the jounalists/photographers, who put their lives at risk in order to document these circumstances. Learning how they fight their own demons created by the inhumane way humans are capable of treating others.

In all it is written simply which makes it an easy read and highly recommended. I really enjoyed it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars utterly superb, 14 Feb 2009
By 
R. Duckett "Mr Rich" (England) - See all my reviews
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I foolishly lent this book to my neighbour about 4 years ago. I could just ask for it back, but I want to read it again and I want a new copy. My neighbour should keep it. Maybe it was not so foolish to lend it, because sharing books like this is important. It is a fantastic read. It will give you a real perspective on SA's transition from Apartheid to Rainbow nation, and it will make you cry...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read but it won't make you happy, 8 Jan 2008
By 
L. Miles "L" (UK) - See all my reviews
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As with the other reviews I did not feel comfortable buying this book (from a charity shop) due to the photographic content and the voyeuristic aspects. None the less I bought it and within a few pages was hooked on the story of the photojournalists and the extreme situations which they find themselves during their 'normal' day job.

This book gives us a glimse of what they go through, the harrowing events that they witness and the sometimes impossible question - photograph the event or try to prevent it.
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