The late Sam Nzima rose to international prominence after capturing the Soweto uprisings on camera. Photo: Google
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The recent passing of legendary photojournalist Sam Nzima — who captured the image of Hector Peterson being carried to safety — has hit where it hurts most; The BEAT collective of editor and reporters.
Nzima passed away on Saturday 12 May, five weeks ahead of Youth Day on Saturday June 16, the day on which he captured that famous picture of the dying Peterson, in the arms of Mbuyisa Makhubu.
Peterson’s sister Antoinnette Sithole cries hysterically alongside.
Lizzy Bapela, Mzamane Ringane and TK Mashaba remember vividly how the late Nzima workshopped them about the finest aspects of newspaper photography, on the occasion of a getaway at Loskop Dam Resort in Mpumalanga, on 18 August 2006.
Perhaps the most poignant memory is that of Lizzy Bapela, who has sheet on which Nzima autographed a special message to nudge on her career.
“That was one of the highlights of my career as a newspaper reporter. Bra Sam was so humble I did not believe he was the man who took that historic political picture of all time,” she said.
Bapela said since then she had made contact with Nzima, sourcing tips on how to approach different frames of pictures.
TK Mashaba said he remembered how at the workshop the late Nzima taught them to always carry their cameras with them in case of any eventuality.
“What he meant was that pictures should not necessarily focus on events and incidents. A good picture can create itself anywhere at any given time,” he said.
Mzamane Ringane said during the workshop Nzima had come across as too big for him as a young journalist.
“His aura and demeanor just blew me away. I feel honoured to have shared the same space with such a great man, well-known worldwide,” he said.
The BEAT editor Johnny Masilela shared memories of how Nzima could not continue as an ordinary photojournalist, following the publication of the Peterson picture on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.
“Bra Sam spent most of his later career addressing seminars on the world stage. It was just amazing,” he said.
Masilela spoke in jest about how a fellow photographer at the now defunct Rand Daily Mail, the late Ralph Ndawo, missed on the great picture.
“Bra Ralph related to me how on June 16 1976 he had, camera in hand, rushed to the scene of a fire in Soweto. In his hurry Bra Ralph swears he had met a schoolboy carrying another one in his arms, with a crying schoolgirl alongside, running in the opposite direction,” he said.
Masilela said that was how — oops! – Ralph Ndawo missed out on capturing the most famous political frame, all because of the fire.
The Hector Peterson Primary School in Modimolle is named in honour of the Soweto uprisings casualty.
18 months ago 17 May 2018