Mikhael Subotzky’s smashed works are an ongoing series dating back to 2004 when, after a death in Pollsmoor prison, Subotzky sought to photograph the body of a deceased prisoner with his (the prisoner’s) parents’ permission. “After printing it, I agonised over whether to take such a violent image back to Chris’ mother. I could hardly look at the image, but she took one look at my print, kissed its surface and pushed it to her chest, thanking me for helping her to put her son to rest.The image haunted me for years and I had a strange but strong instinct that I wanted to smash it. This felt like a very scary, violent thing to do, in some ways re-enacting the violence done to Chris. But I soon realised that conversely, in smashing the glass, I was also covering up the burnt nakedness of his body.” Through smashing this and other photographs, Subotzky’s relationship to photography has fundamentally changed, he sees it as his method of being able to relate to the pain of others and to “the pain I feel in myself.”1
Goodman Gallery booth, Art Basel, Miami Beach, 2016.