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Richard Ndimande's Studio Photographs Collected by Frank Jolles

Identifier: MSS 0479

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, fianc├ęs 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.


  • 1960-1999



The collection is open for research.

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.


0.01 Linear feet (1 folder (47 photographic negatives))

Language of Materials



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.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

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.

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.

Related Material

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

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.

A Guide to the Richard Ndimande's Studio Photographs Collected by Frank Jolles
Finding aid created by Daniel A. Reboussin
December 2008
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America