Nelson Mandela in his Prison Cell on Robben Island by Jurgen Schadeberg, South Africa 1994
Photo credit: © WestLicht Photographica Auction

Nelson Mandela in his Prison Cell on Robben Island by Jurgen Schadeberg, South Africa 1994

This photo, taken by the South African photographer Jürgen Schadeberg, shows Nelson Mandela's prison cell measuring 2x2.5 meters, where Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned by the apartheid regime. The photographer remembers the day he took the photograph, exactly four years after Mandela was released from prison: “This was where he studied, did push-ups and reflected on the goal of the liberation of his people. He looked out of the bars and when he thought I had finished taking pictures, relaxed somewhat, and turned around to smile.”

Schadeberg's portrait of Nelson Mandela, taken with a Leica M6, is a late 20th-century photographic icon. It shows the anti-apartheid fighter on February 11, 1994 – two months before he was elected the first black president of South Africa – visiting his former prison cell on Robben Island.

Schadeberg first portrayed Mandela in 1952, when he had just arrived in South Africa himself and found a job at the magazine Drum. As the magazine’s chief photographer, the native of Berlin became the chronicler of the pulsating life of the 1950s, in jazz clubs and on the streets of Sophiatown, a focal point of black identity in Johannesburg. He also documented the resistance against apartheid politics.

Reference: Ralf-P. Seippel (ed.), Jürgen Schadeberg, Ostfildern 2008, p. 16/277.