Legendary SA photographer dies

George Hallet

George Hallett will be remembered for his laughter, boisterous personality, ability to capture beauty and his contribution to photography, says the acclaimed South African photographer’s daughter.

Mr Hallett, of Claremont, died in his sleep at the age of 77, after a long illness.

His daughter, Maymoena Hallett, who lives in France, shared the news of his death on Facebook, where hundreds paid tribute to the photographer who was best known for his apartheid images.

Mr Hallett was born in District Six and raised by his grandparents in Hout Bay. He attended South Peninsula High School in Diep River.

He went into self-imposed exile in Europe in the 1970s and returned to South Africa in 1995. During this time, he became known for his black-and-white images of Nelson Mandela, which earned him the prestigious Golden Eye Award from the World Press Photo in Amsterdam.

While Mr Hallet and Maymoena’s mother separated, she has many fond memories of their times together and says he spoke fondly of growing up in Hout Bay.

“My life with George was fragmented as my parents separated when I was 4 years old. But we lived on a farm, in the mountains here in France, where I am now. It was idyllic and the house was constantly filled with laughter and South Africans in exile. Later, when my dad lived in Amsterdam and then in Paris, I spent my holidays with him and these again were filled with laughter, delicious food and mischievousness.”

Maymoena says her father had a flair for capturing people unknowingly. “He was always taking pictures. He favoured a Leica and shooting from the hip so that nobody would know what he was actually doing and could thus capture amazing shots.

“Growing up with a photographer, the camera was simply there, part of the family. Shooting with George was always fun; he made his subjects feel comfortable.”

Long-time friend, Rashid Lombard, says Mr Hallett took his craft very seriously and the sharing of his wisdom about how to make photographs. They had a 32-year friendship and even spent time together in France and Amsterdam while Mr Hallett was in exile.

Mr Lombard says his friend loved good music and a good party and he would miss their time listening to jazz, and discussing politics of the arts. His favourite work of Mr Hallett was of his time spent with Nelson Mandela.

“There are those iconic moments in his life showing Madiba as a brilliant man, and unflinching but still as a man,” he says.

“George’s body of work represents an invaluable and possibly underrated archive of a moment in South Africa’s history that should be unearthed and confronted.”

Maymoena says her favourite pictures include those taken in Pyrenees, in the south of France, her 21st birthday and those of her two children.

Responding to Maymoena’s Facebook post, Cedric Nunn wrote: “Rest in peace George. A legend has fallen. Condolences to family and friends.”

Bruce J Little sent his condolences. “He was an icon of image capture in the entertainment industry and many others too.”

While, Fayrooz Bint Asad wrote: “Sincere condolences. Your father was a friend who we valued for so many different reasons. He left behind a legacy of memories that few could rival. May the Almighty make it easy for you and grant his soul eternal peace in the hereafter.”

Mr Hallett leaves behind his two daughters, two grandchildren and five brothers. Funeral plans have not been finalised yet due to the Covid-19 pandemic.