Paul Samuels was born in 1989 in Johannesburg. After completing high school he knew he wanted to be a photographer; he studied a BA Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and in 2012, graduated with a distinction in photography. During his studies, he worked as an intern at Glow Photographic, which expanded his technical and professional knowledge beyond the conceptual and critical thinking, which Wits had instilled in him. In his final year he was awarded a Tierney Fellowship for the project, XVI X, a body of portrait works of young men from the suburb of Edenvale, east of Johannesburg. From this point he had been mentored by Jo Ractliffe, and is currently under her mentor-ship. This work was also selected for the exhibition, Present Tense, curated by Antonio Pinto Ribeiro at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon (2013). His recent portrait series of San veteran soldiers, 31 Battalion, is included in the exhibition, In the night I remember at Stevenson in Johannesburg (2013) and is represented in the collection of the McGregor Museum in Kimberly.
Samuels works mostly with portraiture, as he believes the photographic portrait best expresses individual and societal interests – how people live in relation to the broader formations of society. His images explore identity and belonging within some of society’s subcultures. He is interested in the ways groups develop and constitute themselves; how they share a common identity that reflects their own set of values and sense of purpose. He looks at the ways in which people present themselves through dress, gesture and attitude in the spaces and places they occupy, and how his photographs can tell the stories of young people, today in Africa.
Carling Black Label
Castle Milk Stout
Dark and Lovely
Dr and Misses
House and Leisure
MSF - Doctors without Borders(NGO)
Rand Merchant Bank
Simon and Mary
Awards and Nominations
2012 Tierney Fellowship Award, for XVIX Edenvale series.
2017 Mack First Book Award (Nominated)
2017 Loerie : The Doom Insecticide Campaign, for print communications: newspaper advertising category.
2019 Loerie : No 7 photographer in Africa and middle East
Exhibitions and projects
2008 The Greenroom Project, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2012 Newwwork 12, University of the Witwatersrand Art Museum .
2012 Wide Angle, University of the Witwatersrand substation gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2013 Present Tense, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon (travelling to Paris and Porto).
2013 New York Photo Festival, New York.
2013 On the night I remember, Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg.
2014 Roodepoort research project, Roodepoort South Africa.
2015 reGeneration 3, Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland
2015 Against Time, Bamako Bienalle, Mali
2015 reGeneration 3, Amparo Museum, Mexico
2015 The Bright night project, Room gallery, Johannesburg
2015 Seeing through the complexities of difference, Kalashnikovv gallery, Johannesburg
2015 reGeneration 3,QUAD/Format Festivale, Derby, UK
2016 Against Time, Bamako Biennale, Bamako, Mali
2020 Art Montpellier, Artskop3437 Project, France
Books and Catalogue entries
2008 Rodan Kane Hart, Murry Kruger and Paul Samuels, The Greenroom Project, (Johannesburg: self published, 2008).
2013 Grandes Licoes (Lisbon: Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, 2013).
2013 Present Tense, (Lisbon: Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, 2013).
2013 The Tierney Fellowship South Africa 2012/13, (Johannesburg: ‘print on demand’ catalogue, 2014).
2015 reGeneration 3, Lydia Dorner and Anne Lacoste. (Switzerland 2015)
2015 Against Time, the Tierney Fellowship Project, (Johannesburg)
2016 Rencontres de Bamako, (Mali)
Tierney Fellowship recipient 2012
The Tierney Fellowship was created in 2003 by The Tierney Family Foundation in New York. The Fellowship is intended to provide emerging photographers with support in the production of their work and in creating a support network in an increasingly competitive field. Fellows receive a cash grant, and work within a structured mentorship programme. At the end of the one-year grant period, recipients present a new body of work; this work is exhibited locally and selected works by each Fellow are then exhibited at the New York Photo Festival, which become part of the Tierney Foundation Archive.
In 2008, the Wits School of Arts, the Market Photo Workshop and the Michaelis School of Fine Art were selected as the South African partners. Over the past three years we have worked collaboratively to develop a programme that both supports the individual creative and professional development of the Fellows, and facilitates their engagement with each other in the growing community of local photographers. Each fellow works with a mentor who guides and supports him or her through the process of developing a new project. In addition, we have introduced a collective mentoring programme of regular inter-institutional seminars and critiques where all fellows and mentors come together to exchange thoughts and ideas about the work in progress.
Participation includes that of professional photographers, artists, curators and writers; this gives fellows exposure to the broader photographic and art community and the opportunity to engage in-depth with professionals on issues in relation to their projects – and in ways they may not usually have the opportunity to otherwise. Invited contributors have included David Goldblatt, Pieter Hugo, Berni Searle, Tracey Rose, Mikhael Subotsky, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Paul Weinberg, Michael Godby, Penny Siopis, Jane Alexander, Kathryn Smith, Dave Southwood, Roger Ballen, Santu Mofokeng, Patricia Hayes, Jodi Bieber and Peter McKenzie amongst others. The Fellowship programme is coordinated by Rory Bester and Jo Ractliffe at Wits, John Fleetwood and Molemo Moiloa at the Market Photo Workshop and Jean Brundrit and Svea Josephy at UCT.
“ An exhibition with photographers from Southern Africa. Looking at the past, the photographs do not derive from a “constellation of ethnic groups or tribes”, to mention the thesis proposed by Elikia M’Bokolo, and this is an essential premise in the curatorship of this exhibition entitled “Present Tense”. We are quite far removed from the photographs taken of black people who “officially […] were frequently depicted in the same visual language as the flora and fauna”, to quote Santu Mofokeng in “The Black Album Photo”. We are interested in showing and comparing the work of photographers who live or travel through a series of cities situated mainly in the Southern Africa region without there being anything to indicate any visual or cultural identity for the region. Regardless of the genres – portrait, landscape, document, photojournalism – these are photographs about the “Present Tense” that we want to show, and this concept of the “Present Tense” also includes the tension between languages, the choice of colour or black and white and the detail diverging from the panoramic view. With photographs by the photographers Délio Jasse, Dillon Marsh, Filipe Branquinho, Guy Tillim, Jo Ractliffe, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Mack Magagane, Malala Andrialavidrazana, Mauro Pinto, Paul Samuels, Pieter Hugo, Sabelo Mlangeni, Sammy Baloji and Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi. “
Present Tense - Curated by Antonio Pinto Ribeiro
Links on the show
"In the night I remember" Curated by Kabelo Malatsie
“ In the night I remember is an exhibition that reflects on the night as a moment of clarity. Covered by the veils of darkness we contemplate the day, we explore imagination and navigate memory, we fight our ghosts, we drift, we dream and give our fantasies and fears life and form. It is in these moments of self-scrutiny that we can interrogate our constructed realities.
Curated by Kabelo Malatsie, In the night I remember brings together a group of young artists who confront and deal with daily nightmares, issues of control and limitation, memory, dreams and aspirations, and self-awareness. They are Igshaan Adams, Justin Davy, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Euridice Kala, Alexandra Karakashian, Siobhan Keam, Mack Magagane, Cinga Samson, Paul Samuels and Bogosi Sekhukhuni. “
Generation – an innovative international project devoted to the emerging photographic scene launched in 2005 – represents one of the hallmarks of the Musee de l’Elysee. Although many similar projects have seen the day since then, the Musee de l’Elysee decided to embark on a third edition on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, one that would focus on the multifaceted nature of photography.
Almost one hundred art academies worldwide responded to our call for applications and submitted up to five portfolios of the best work of their recently graduated students. After a careful review of the 400 applications submitted, three major themes were identified as being representative of the emerging art scene: the variety of approaches for dealing with documentary subjects; the question of memory; and the wealth of aesthetic photographic expressions inspired by the history of the medium and, more broadly, the history of art.
reGeneration3 brings together 50 artists with 25 different nationalities, representing some 40 art institutions. Their work is distinguished by their multidisciplinarity, ranging from printing and photographic series, artists’ books, multimedia installations, videos, projections, films and performances, to on-site installations.
The Tierney Fellowship Project in South Africa
Curators: John Fleetwood with Jo Ractliffe and Svea Josephy
Photographs do not offer a clear picture of history, or of the present. Instead the fragmented and interpretative nature of images disallows their content to offer clear and linear understandings of time, and of space. Following two decades of democracy in South Africa, there are questions about how the past keeps moving into the present, and persists to be part of the future. These lingering pasts and desired futures have created spaces for new identities and new ways of seeing.
Socio-economic, political and cultural shifts toward and within urban and popular cultures; identities created from these popular cultures; globalisation and digital advances of cultural production and post-colonial re-readings of our cities and spaces, are some of the transitions and transformations that often create anachronisms of time and space.
This group exhibition foregrounds the ways in which contemporary South African photographers engage ideas of time in relation to the nation’s two decades since democracy (1994-2014). This work is drawn from the Tierney Fellowship's programme, a partnership between the Market Photo Workshop, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town and the Wits School of Arts, which has supported talented emerging photographers since 2008. This exhibition includes the work of Ashley Walters, Juan Orrantia, Mack Magagane, Nobukho Nqaba, Paul Samuels and Sipho Gongxeka.