Gideon Mendel is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading contemporary photographers. His intimate style of committed image making, and long-term commitment to projects has earned him international acclaim. Born in Johannesburg in 1959, he studied Psychology and African History at the University of Cape Town. He began photographing in the 1980s during the final years of apartheid. It was his work as a ‘struggle photographer’ at this time that first brought his work to global attention.
In the early 1990s he moved to London, from where he has continued to respond to social issues globally. One of the major focuses of his work soon became the issue of HIV/AIDS. This journey began in Africa and has expanded to many parts of the world over the last twenty years. The concluding and ongoing chapter, Through Positive Eyes, is a collaborative project in which Mendel’s role has shifted from photographer to enabler, handing the camera over to HIV positive people.
Since 2007, Mendel has been working on Drowning World, an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to climate change. This work has been noted for its unusual use of portraiture, as well as its combination of photography with video pieces.
Mendel has worked for many leading magazines—amongst them National Geographic, Fortune Magazine, Condé Naste Traveller, Geo, The Independent Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, L’Express, Stern and Rolling Stone.
His first book, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa was published in 2001. Since then he has produced a number of photographic advocacy projects, working with charities and campaigning organizations including The Global Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières, Treatment Action Campaign, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Action Aid, the Terrene Higgins Trust, Shelter, Leonard Cheshire International, UNICEF and Concern Worldwide.
His work is increasingly being seen in a variety of gallery contexts, with some of his earliest work from South Africa included in the ongoing Rise and Fall of Apartheid touring exhibition. Drowning World has featured prominently at the ICP Triennial and Picture Windows installations in New York, as well as in numerous other public installations and galleries.
Amongst many accolades, Mendel has won the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, six World Press Photo Awards, first prize in the Pictures of the Year competition, a POY Canon Photo Essayist Award and the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism. Most recently he has been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet 2015 (Disorder) for Drowning World.