Melville

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Photographs by Julian Richards I took these pictures while living in Melville, a formerly whites-only suburb of Johannesburg, in 2007 and 2008. At first I thought that Johannesburg might be an ideal city, in its central middle-class neighbourhoods at least: Mediterranean climate, strong, sharp light, big gardens full of extravagant plants, swimming pools, everything neat and tidy. East London, I must admit, cannot compete on these points. But there was something odd about Melville: the streets were always empty. No one except the occasional domestic worker walked anywhere. And, as in all middle-class areas of South Africa, walls were being built ever higher, backed up by a proliferation of electric fences, automatic gates, security beams, guard dogs and plaques warning of armed-response units. I came to understand that fear of crime and suspicion of others was deep. That is why I went out with my camera and tripod – keeping an eye out for muggers – to capture the light, the beauty and the emptiness.