JM Coetzee’s reputation as a novelist, essayist and linguist is already well established, with a Nobel and two Booker prizes to his name. But less well known is his early ambition to be a photographer.

Now a collection of images, some taken more than 50 years ago, has surfaced, giving interesting insight into Coetzee’s youthful encounter with photography as he attempted to capture, as he put it, "the moment when truth revealed itself".

Most of the images in JM Coetzee: Photographs from Boyhood have been reproduced from negatives that had never before been printed, having been in storage for more than 50 years. They were given to University of the Western Cape academic Hermann Wittenberg when he worked on cinematic and photographic aspects of Coetzee’s writing, and edited Coetzee’s film scripts, Two Screenplays.

Wittenberg, together with Farzanah Badsha, curated the exhibition.

The photographs are mostly amateur images taken at a young age, some blurry, with tilting horizons, snapped in a documentary fashion. But they give insight into Coetzee’s boyhood in Cape Town in the mid-1950s, and they show how photography shaped his creative development.

Coetzee acquired a professional camera when he was 16 and set up his own darkroom, in which he developed and printed his photographs.

Among the pictures are also several remarkable self-portraits.

• JM Coetzee: Photographs from Boyhood Irma Stern Gallery, Rosebank, Cape Town, November 28-January 20.

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