Southern Suburbs, a series by South African photographer Alice Mann (b. 1991), examines certain social patterns of South Africa's society. Mann has taken portraits of upper class families in their home environment and of the people who work for them.
“There is a substantial economic rift between my subjects [...] A racial and cultural hierarchy highlights South Africa’s Apartheid past, where generally black South Africans were in a lower income bracket than their white counterparts,” explains Mann. “This rings true in the images in my series, where all of the employers […] are white, while their employees are black.”
The artist notes that even though they the residents and domestic workers share a common space, they are hardly a part of each other’s lives, and rarely meet: by the time the family has returned home from work or school, the domestic workers have often already left. Though she portrays them democratically in the same spaces, the employers and employees are never portrayed together.
Even if Apartheid times are long gone, certain dynamics between different parts of society remain the same. Visualising this aspect in such a clear and patient way leads the viewer to a bitter meditation about the deep contradictions on which our society as a whole is built, not limited by any means to South Africa. Mann’s series highlights the gap between people with different backgrounds and the fact that sharing the same space doesn't automatically mean belonging to the same community.