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Jason Larkin


The lust for gold has a history as old as humankind. Yet who thinks about the tons of refuse, dirt, dumps, runoffs, and other problems created by mining for gold when enjoying beautiful jewelry? In Jason Larkin’s Tales from the City of Gold, we are given a look at the aftermath of what this craving does to the landscape and to the people who continue to live where gold mining took place. In his current practice, he works slowly and immerses himself in his subject to frame and reveal important social, economic, and political issues. This latest project demonstrates his ongoing interest in providing the context for present realities through the lens of their historical legacies.

Born in 1979 and originally trained as a photojournalist, Larkin is now engaged in documentary projects that take years to develop and so allow for a deep examination of his subjects. He initiated the project Tales from the City of Gold in 2010 shortly after moving to Johannesburg and completed it two years later. Describing the work, Larkin says that each individual mining dump has a life of its own. These are places where people at the very bottom of the economic scale live with no running water, electricity, adequate housing, or other necessities. In images evoking the work of an anthropologist, he provides a window through which to see life after commercial mining has ended. For Larkin a full picture of Johannesburg, sleek with modern buildings and skyscrapers, would be incomplete without the residents left behind. In this project, the viewer is able to understand what happens when an industry moves on after making damaging changes to the landscape.

Larkin has published several other booklength projects. What separates Tales from the City of Gold from other monographs is a newspaper version, titled After the Mines, that Larkin also issued. He has written that he did this “to make sure that those who could not afford the costly hardbacks could see the work in a newspaper version.” Half of the copies of this bilingual publication (English and Zulu) were distributed free to activists and environmental organizations.

Joan Morgenstern, Private Collector, Houston, Texas


Jason Larkin is a British photographer recognized for his long-term documentary projects. After completing his M.A. in photojournalism, he moved to Cairo and started his career. Focusing on cultural representation and the changing landscape across Egypt, he adopted an immersive attitude and a slower approach to journalism that allowed for the creation of comprehensive bodies of work that communicate on important social, economic, and political issues. His first publication, Cairo Divided, a unique bilingual newspaper freely distributed online, explores the capital’s rapidly mutating urban landscape; it was nominated for the Deutsche Börse and Prix Pictet photography awards. In 2010, Larkin focused his attention on the long and complicated legacy of the mining industry’s impact on one of Africa’s largest cities, Johannesburg. Moving there for two years to complete the series, he brought an all-encompassing viewpoint to this long ignored aspect of Johannesburg. Using a variety of formats, both conventional and new, to ensure his work reaches multiple audiences, he published Tales from the City of Gold (Heidelberg, Germany: Kehrer Verlag, 2014) both in South Africa as a bilingual publication and in Europe as a monograph; the series was also exhibited across South Africa and Europe.

Larkin also has had recent solo exhibitions at Flowers Gallery, London, and the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, and he was a featured artist at the Brighton Photo Biennial in England. His work is also published regularly by leading international periodicals.

Now based in London, he is an associate lecturer at the University of the Arts London, while continuing to explore themes of social and collective identity and their interaction with the surrounding landscape.

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