JOHANNESBURG – South African photographer John Parkin, who covered the country’s anti-apartheid struggle, its first democratic elections, and the presidency of Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 63.
Parkin had long battled cancer and died Monday, according to his daughter.
After training as a photographer in the South African air force, Parkin worked for the Sunday Express newspaper in Johannesburg, and in the mid-1980s he began taking photos for The Associated Press.
Parkin was known for his cool demeanor in often dangerous circumstances and for his reliability in getting photos.
“He was always consistent in his craft and consistent in his friendly manner,” fellow photojournalist Trevor Samson said. “We worked alongside each other as competitors but as friends. That period, from 1985 until 1994, was the most incredible period in South Africa's history and we had the privilege to cover it.”
Journalist Mike Cadman said that Parkin was committed to chronicling that tumultuous period through his photographs.
“He knew he had to do the story well, to show the world South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy,” Cadman said. “In that period, South Africa was one of the world's biggest news stories. This place was awash with arms and violence. John was courageous in his work, but never reckless.”
In addition to his photography, Parkin was known for helping other journalists out of difficult situations.
“He was always looking out for the well-being of others, helping countless colleagues if they had problems with their equipment or got into trouble with the police or locals,” said Tom Cohen, who worked with Parkin in Johannesburg in the 1990s.
“He was helpful, even to competitors,” photographer Alexander Joe said. “When I first came to Johannesburg in those apartheid years, he showed me around Soweto and other areas. He also had a great sense of humor.”
Parkin moved to the United Kingdom in 1995, where he covered news events, including the funeral of Princess Diana, and used his expertise in information technology to work as a video journalist.
He is survived by two daughters, Emily and Francesca, and a grandson, Isaac.