In his own words….
Born on a farm in South Africa, on the 26th of August 1947 to be exact, I spent most of my first eight years running around barefoot like a wild little madman. Later, I went to an English High School and started wearing shoes and managed to scrape through final exams but really excelled at sports and girls. I was drafted into the South African Air Force, but did a lot more athletics than aerial combat and later attended Stellenbosch University, again excelling in recklessness and exuberance. My majors were graphic design, drinking, dancing, rugby and athletics. While at Stellenbosch, I was made aware that cameras can produce images, I fell in love with photography and Lynn. Soon after, I bought a Hasselblad and got married to Lynn.
In 1970, I looked around and became aware of the bad political situation in South Africa, said goodbye to all the friends and parents and went off to study photography in München, Germany. Quickly, I learnt that fun and hard work didn’t mix in Germany, so I learnt to excel in image taking and received top marks in the final exams.
In 1973 working as camera assistant at a German Film Company, I started to long for the wide-open plains of Africa and returned to South Africa to find that Apartheid was really at its worst. I found work in Pretoria and fell around from job to job and from bar to bar. In 1975, I started lecturing at The Natal Technikon in Durban and approached teaching with enthusiasm.
In 1979, I took a sabbatical and returned to München to complete a Masters Diploma at the Bavarian State Institute of Photography and in 1980 I was promoted to Senior lecturer at the Institute but caused some kind of shit and was demoted the next day. In 1984, I returned to South Africa and applied for Head of the Photography Section at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. In 1999I was promoted to Associate Professor, didn’t cause any shit so remained in that position till my retirement from academia in 2002.
Moving to Nature’s Valley on the cape coast of South Africa, I started a freelance photographic business and I have never lost my enthusiasm for photography.
From 1975 to the present day, I have produced 10 coffee table books. (‘Momento Mori’ was a collaboration with historians). During this time, I have had 34 solo exhibitions in South Africa and 10 International one-man exhibitions in Europe and continue to photograph for many international publications around the world.
My wife of 40 years, Lynn, who retired from teaching when we moved to Nature’s Valley, is now assisting me, and my wild and wonderful sons, Nikki and Jesse, are at present living in Qatar and Australia.
In the words of others…
Obie Oberholzer, a renegade photographer, seasoned berserker, lifelong moustache-wearer and a total asshole – Sunday Times
“Few SA artists can productively be called raconteurs, as in a skilful teller of anecdotes. Most are simply too glum – solemn, too – when spinning yarns around their work. If only more artists, in particular photographers, could be like Obie Oberholzer.” – Sean O’Toole, Financial Mail
Capturing scenes of travel that are distinctive and unique as he is, Obie Oberholzer’s images resonate with a dynamic energy that brings the scene to life and, when we look at them, it’s as if we are transported to the spot. One of Oberholzer’s gifts is that he knows how to represent in two dimensions what the human eye so easily takes in. His way of seeing things comes from years of travel photography that have taught him how to look at the world in a certain way – seeing angles and light where the rest of us just see “really awesome mountains”.- Duncan Fleming and Mahreen Chenia