Paul Alberts

black and white portrait of Paul Alberts

Paul Alberts, a prominent South African social documentary photographer, was born in 1946 in Pretoria. His passion for capturing the essence of society led him to freelance photography in 1975, with a primary focus on social documentary and theatre photography. Throughout his career, he dedicated himself to publishing compelling visual narratives. Notably, seven photographic books featuring his work have been published, including titles like Die Klein Karoo: ‘n Legkaart, Children of the Flats, and South African Military Buildings Photographed: An Historical Heritage. His lens captured the multifaceted realities of South Africa, leaving an indelible mark on the world of photography and storytelling.

From the beginning, Paul Alberts was familiar, comfortable, and friendly with artists. Writers
were among his best friends. He knew painters. In his professional capacity as a theatre
photographer, he carved out a unique role, capturing actors, dancers, singers – on stage, in
drama, and elsewhere.

‘In the Creative Moment’ refers, on the one hand, to his talent for precisely capturing the
photo moment of ‘revelation,’ the classic task of a great photographer. It also points to his
personal interactions with this unique group of artists who stood before his lens. The creative
talent of the portraitist and that of the subject. In his foreword to Alberts’ photo book In
Camera (1979), his friend André P. Brink writes, “In the camera’s virtuoso and responsible
choice, something is pulled out from a random and fleeting piece of reality that, if it
succeeds, transforms into a privileged view of the truth… In the unique, and perhaps
impulsive reaction of one person at one moment, something is embodied of all people and all

When you consider that the people in front of his camera are all artists in their own right –
some of great skill and fame – this series of portraits truly becomes a unique, wide overview
of remarkable talents of truth. Artists have a blessed mission to bring the fruit of their
creative work to all people and all times.
The same, of course, applies to Paul Alberts.

” I was fortunate to work with him professionally in the theatrical world and the visual arts
community during the productive creative years of the seventies and to socialize as well.
What always struck me was his sensitivity to and of the moment: in the theatrical world, the
photographer captures something from the stage that visually encapsulates that moment in the
play – the tension, the drama, the emotion – a quick visual summary of what is at hand. But it
also has to do with the actor and the personality in front of the lens. Here, he could easily
establish a connection, enter the psyche of the player, writer, painter, dancer, art creator – to
show something of that person in the most intimate moment just for him and his camera,
preserving it for the future.

As is evident in many of the touching pictures of historical places, social situations, and
South African landscapes in his other photographic work, he had an intuitive sense of the
meaning and value of what and who he viewed through his lens. For us now, this is captured
in the striking historical portraits: those who still give meaning to our lives creatively.”

Foreward by Melvyn Minnaar