David Goldblatt – ‘No Ulterior Motive’, an insightful retrospective accompanying a major exhibition at venues in the USA and Madrid, pays homage to the remarkable career of one of South Africa’s most acclaimed photographers. Edited by Judy Ditner, Leslie M. Wilson, and Matthew S. Witkovsky, and featuring a preface by Njabulo S. Ndebele, this publication presents a comprehensive journey through Goldblatt’s lens, capturing six decades of his impactful work.

The thematic organization of the photographs, ranging from vintage black-and-white images to later large-format colour pieces, highlights Goldblatt’s unwavering dedication to documenting the lives of working-class people, the landscape, and the built environment. The exhibition title, derived from Goldblatt’s own language seeking subjects for his photographs, encapsulates the transparency and objectivity that defined his unique approach.

Goldblatt’s oeuvre extends beyond apartheid-era documentation, transcending the narrow view of the historical context. The inclusion of objects from his personal archive enriches the narrative, offering a more intimate connection to the artist’s life and process. The retrospective delves into Goldblatt’s examination of his privileged position as the son of Lithuanian Jewish emigrants, providing a nuanced understanding of his evolving perspectives over time.

A noteworthy aspect of this publication is its commitment to inclusivity. It not only showcases Goldblatt’s work but also features contributions from contemporary photographers and scholars, such as Zanele Muholi and Sabelo Mlangeni, who were mentored by Goldblatt. Their voices create a diverse and comprehensive frame of reference for Goldblatt’s work, dispelling the misconception of apartheid as a situation unique to South Africa.

The exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago serves as a fitting tribute to Goldblatt’s legacy, progressing seamlessly from his early documentary works to later introspective colour pieces. The examination of Goldblatt’s mentorship and influence on younger artists, both nationally and internationally, further emphasizes his enduring impact on the world of photography.

In conclusion, David Goldblatt: No Ulterior Motive is more than a retrospective; it’s a celebration of an artist who devoted his life to capturing the complex tapestry of South African history and politics. The diverse voices, rich visuals, and thoughtful analysis presented in this catalogue makes it an essential addition to the collection of anyone interested in the intersection of photography, history, and human experience.