January 13, 2014

Jason Larkin: Tales From the City of Gold

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Written by: Manik Katyal


A city built on gold, Johannesburg was founded in 1886, when settlers and immigrants descended on the largest reef of the precious metal ever to be discovered. The area transformed quickly into a mining mecca. Within fifty years, over three hundred thousand people were working in gold mines across the city. This vast and rapid expansion reflected the increasing global thirst for gold as a commodity and helped fuel a government that changed South Africa forever.

Long after the mining has finished, its environmental and social impact is still embedded in the fabric of modern Johannesburg. Tailings dams, the by-product of past extractions, now exist as manufactured mountains of waste. Six billion tonnes of these ‘mine dumps’ form the backdrop of Southern Africa’s largest city. These vast monuments are a constant reminder of the productivity of the past, whilst attracting a plethora of contemporary activities. With around four hundred thousand people currently living around the six billion tonnes of toxic waste, the resurgence of re-mining the dumps for remaining gold is stirring an already fragile existence for many.



Tales From The City Of Gold explores these tailings as an integrated extension of the thriving metropolis that surrounds them. Anthropological in its approach, this project is the result of living in Johannesburg for two years, observing the ordinary and extraordinary nature of life alongside the dumps. Focusing on the coexistence between past and present allows a unique perspective on the actions of previous generations and reveals that impact on our society and environment today.


Authors: Julian Rodriguez, Mara Kardas-Nelson

Artists: Jason Larkin

Designed by Realise Creative (James Greenhow)

Hardcover – 24 x 28 cm

Pages – 96

Publisher – Kehrer 

ISBN 978-3-86828-416-4

Euro 39,90

Ali Painter
I find these images extremely beautiful. The structure and aesthetic created by Larkin reinforces the fragility of the lives of these citizens. Coupling the portraits with vast landscapes of the surrounding areas demonstrates to the viewer how much damage and waste there is. The importance of the back-story for this documentary project gives the photographs substance.
Winnie Fung
Luxurious in presentation and distinctive with the square formatting, From The City of Gold sets out to provide a social commentary on the past, present and questioning the future of these Johannesburg landscapes.
Anurag Rai
A beautifully enunciated work of art that dwells so subtly around the mining chronology of Johannesburg. The images have a deep impact on the reader. I myself plunged into a deep pondering state for a while. Amazing work.
Menkah Ahlawat
This project reflects an unfortunate truth through stunning visuals. I felt both joyous and sad while going through these pictures; they are beautiful and show Africa in all its decadent splendour. I especially liked the ones with the human subjects against the expansive African landscape. At the same time they remind us how a blind drive toward luxury and wealth has made us forget the most important resource we have - Earth. The emergence of a hugely profitable industry on the shoulders of a poor few, as well as the choiceless inheritance by future generations of this fragile existence, makes one think about the rippling effect past events can have on not only the environment but also man. These are only some of the issues that this project, which justifably claims to be anthropological in nature, osucceeds in touching upon.
Vivek Bhattacharyya
One look and I am reminded of the Lionardo DiCaprio-starrer Blood Diamond, where the diamonds mined in Africa were sold to finance conflicts and profit warlords and diamond companies alike. Much of the South African landscape, especially Kimberley resembles the landscape of that of Johannesburg today. Transition from picture 5 to 6 seems to indicate an anthropological approach, chronicling the ordinary and extraordinary nature of life alongside the dumps and abandoned mines. Picture 6 brings out the coexistence between past and present. Picture 8, 9 and 11 tell us the results of the actions of previous generations and the impact on our society and environment.
Aayushi Thakur Sinha
For one, I was woefully unaware of Johannesburg's history. Larkin has done a wonderful job of presenting a contrast between, as well an agglomeration of, the past and the present of South Africa. Every photo leaves one with distinctly uncomfortable silence.
Sonali Singh
This photo book has a peculiar impact on the reader's mind. With the descriptive imagery, you feel compelled to think how selfish we actually are.
Mithila Velamala
its a pretty captivating article with touching photography especially for environmentalists who actually connect with the nature.
Deeksha Supyaal Bisht
Enlightening way of bringing to attention the acute problems faced due to mining.
Khyati Sunita Meena
this is a great attempt at bringing the problems faced by the nature under a spotlight, actually this is a really unique attempt.
Aakshay Pvv
nice merge between the history and the current facts to create awareness with the help of amazing photography and text.
Geetika Nagpal
These are taken from a perspective that perhaps no one has tried before. Also, the binaries are so clear and moving.
Ewa Muszyńska
the title of this photobook is remarkable...which unfortunately shows an authentic city ( which btw I always wanted to visit ) with its real story.

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