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A Guide to the Richard Ndimande's Studio Photographs Collected by Frank Jolles

Finding aid created by Daniel A. Reboussin

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
December 2008

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Jolles, Frank (Collector)
Title: Richard Ndimande's Studio Photographs Collected by Frank Jolles
Dates: 1960-1999
Abstract: Photographic negative portraits collected by Dr. Frank Jolles. The collection pertains to the studio portraits taken at Z.J.S. Ndimande and Son, Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal. Richard Ndimande took the photographs (along with, possibly, his wife in the later images) that constitute this combined purchase and gift, complete in 47 frames of 16 black and white and 31 color negatives.
Extent: 0.01 Linear feet. 1 folder (47 photographic negatives).
Identification: MSS 0479
Language(s): English
Online Content Items from this collection have been digitized and are available online in the UF Digital Collections. For more information please see the note below.

Biographical/Historical Note

The source of these images is the photographic portrait studio of Z.J.S. Ndimande and Son, Greytown, Natal (now the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa) and its owner/photographer Richard Ndimande. Richard's wife may have take some of the later photographs in this collection (Richard is the son of the business founder, Z.J.S. Ndimande, but his wife's name is not available as this finding aid is being written). The studio, which opened in 1940, could not operate under the owner's name in Greytown, which was a white district during the Apartheid era. Richard and his wife left Greytown in the late 1990s to open a furniture business in Ladysmith, according to the collector, Dr. Frank Jolles.

J.S.Z. Ndimande started the photographic business in March 1940 setting up shop at the corner of Bell Street and York Street, in Greytown. At that time this was a mainly Indian area. He used a large box-type camera with a black cloth. The film was processed inside the camera box, where there were compartments with developer and fixative. Richard worked with his father from 1959-1968, taking over the photographic business in 1968. His father continued to run a hairdressing saloon, which is still attached to the photographic studio, until he retired in 1977.

In 1968 the studio had to leave town because of the enforcement of the Group Areas Act in Greytown. At that time, Richard moved the studio to a location in enHlalagahle, a semi-rural township outside of Greytown. However, business there was very poor because customers did not like going to that area. The location was inconvenient and they were scared of the gangs of boys there. One also had to get a permit, for which there was special office in town. In about 1983 the business moved back to town to its present site at the corner Okes and Vortrekker Streets, under the white cover name of Frederick (Bob) Harris as its official owner. At that time Richard switched from using black and white to color film. [Dr. Jolles notes that the earliest color negatives he has are from the late 1980s.]

In 1991 Richard Ndimande took a course in woodworking in order to set up a furniture manufacturing business in Ladysmith. He also set up a photographic studio. He still does some photography in Greytown, as does his wife and a woman who he trained. Since color film has become readily available, trade has declined as more and more people take their own photos.

In the early period, Richard Ndimande says, they used a Ciroflex camera, they then switched to a Rollei (6x6cm 120/620 film) with dual lens which they used up to 1973, after that he used 35mm black and white.

The present studio (since 1983) has a shallow stage with a row of footlights and a row of overhead lights using 100W or 150W tungsten bulbs to give a bright evenly distributed frontal light. No flash is used. Color daylight film was, and is still being used. The compensation for color balance was worked out by trial and error with the processing firm.

Dr. Jolles notes that the 2 1/4" x 2 1/4" black and white negatives all date from before 1973, and that he doesn't have any 35mm black and white negatives, only the color. However, over the years he has bought both color and black and white prints in the field. A few of them might be by Ndimande, though most of them are taken in the open air. They probably go back to the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Jolles has a fairly extensive collection of Ndimande's black and white and color prints.

The collector, Dr. Frank Jolles, is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Honorary Research Associate of the Natal Museum. His 2006 article "Negotiating relationships: Village to city, beadwork to SMS." [Southern African Humanities 18(2):119-38] discusses the cultural and historical context of this studio and its clientele, including a number of very similar images to the ones included in this collection.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of two sets of photographic negatives. The first set totals 16 frames of black and white photographic negatives in 2 1/4" x 2 1/4" format, while the second totals 31 color negatives in 35mm format, both by studio photographer Richard Ndimande (and in some cases, his wife) of Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Subject matter is portraits of studio clientele, primarily Zulu women and their children or friends, including their boyfriends, fiancés or husbands, who were generally migrant workers. Portrait subjects were often photographed with beadwork, studio props and employing gestures and expressions that Dr. Jolles in several publications has interpreted as containing personal messages to the absent migrants.

Susan Cooksey, curator of African Art is including some of the associated beadwork in an exhibit at the Harn Museum of Art, 2008-2009.

Access or Use Restrictions


The collection is open for research.

Related or Separated Material

Between the Beads: Reading African Beadwork Exhibit at the Harn Museum of Art (2008-9):

Administrative Information

Alternative Format Available

Digital reproductions of the photos and documents in the Frank Jolles collection of Richard Ndimande's Zulu South African studio photographs from Z.J.S. Ndimande and Son, Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC) Africana Collection.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Richard Ndimande's Studio Photographs Collected by Frank Jolles, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Acquisition Information

The 35mm color negatives in the Frank Jolles collection of Richard Ndimande's Zulu South African studio photographs from Z.J.S. Ndimande and Son, Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal were donated by Frank Jolles of South Africa in November, 2007. In January of 2008, the 16 medium format images were purchased from Dr. Jolles. The collection was acquired through the assistance of Susan Cooksey.

Processing Notes

These materials were described in 2008 by Dan Reboussin. The following individuals provided assistance in administrative matters and descriptive work: Susan Cooksey, Dr. Frank Jolles and Lourdes Santamaria-Wheeler.

Contents List

Black and White Photographic Negatives, 1960-Early 1980s

Woman with Umbrella and Handkerchief
Woman displaying Back Tie
Woman in Western Dress with Book
Woman with Umbrella and Handkerchief
Woman with Umbrella and Flower Basket
Woman Displaying Back Tie
Woman Displaying Back Tie with Carrying Case
Two Young Men with Hats
Woman Displaying Back Tie with Hat
Two Men with Flower Basket
Woman with Two Men and Flower Basket
Woman With Umbrella and Handkerchief
Two Young Women in Western Dress with Flower Basket
Woman Wearing Sweater with a Handbag and Flower Basket
Woman with Umbrella and Necklace in Hand
Woman with Carrying Case

Color Photographic Negatives, Late 1980s-1999

Woman with Cape and Pink Skirt
Infant with Yellow Shoes
Woman with Bicycle Print Skirt
Woman in Black Skirt Holding Infant
Woman in Hat with Young Girl in Hat
Woman in Hat with Telephone
Woman in Polka Dot Dress and Glasses
Woman in White Cape and Green Skirt
Woman in Dress with White Shoes, Three-Quarter Pose
Woman in Dress with White Shoes, Frontal Pose
Three Women in Matching Dress
Young Girl with Skirt
Woman in Black Cape and Green Skirt
Woman in White Cape and Maroon Skirt with Telephone
Woman in Purple Cape, Three-Quarter Pose
Woman in Purple Cape, Frontal Pose
Woman with Black Skirt
Woman with Black Pleated Skirt
Woman with Black Pleated Skirt
Woman with Short Skirt
Two Women in Capes and Skirts
Woman in Green Skirt
Woman in Green Skirt, Against Red Background
Woman in Black Cape and White Skirt
Woman in White Sleeveless Shirt and Purple Skirt
Woman in Purple Cape
Woman in Long Sleeve Printed Dress
Woman Displaying Beads
Woman with Shield
Man with Younger Man in Jacket
Woman in Black Skirt

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Beadwork -- South Africa -- Pictorial works.
Greytown (South Africa) -- History.
KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) -- History.
Photography of women -- South Africa.
Portrait photography -- South Africa.
Zulu (African people) -- Photographs.

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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