It was an experience you cannot describe to anyone who was not there, says photographer

Charles Pullen, an Evening Post photographer during the uprising in the northern areas, checks out some photo negatives from that era
CALLING BACK THE PAST: Charles Pullen, an Evening Post photographer during the uprising in the northern areas, checks out some photo negatives from that era
Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Veteran newspaper photographer Charles Pullen worked for the Evening Post for just over a month when the Northern Areas Uprising broke out on August 6 1990.

Pullen described the situation in the northern areas during that week as tense and chaotic having to be there daily to take photographs. 

“I was at the Waldorf bottle store in Durban Road in Korsten, and there was a helicopter with police, members of the army hanging out of the door with their guns shooting at the people breaking down and looting the bottle store.

“People fell down. I didn’t know who died because I had to get out of the way and run for my life.”

Pullen says people also looted at the Alabama Hotel, stealing alcohol and carrying beds on their heads out of the hotel.

“It was chaos. I don’t think the Alabama ever reopened.”

He recounts how a car that was driving in front of him in Hillside was stoned and set alight and how he and senior photographer Jack Cooper had to try to get away in a hurry.

“I had to reverse while the protesters were throwing stones at us. In those years we did not have fancy cameras.

“It had no autofocus. You jump out of the car, take the photograph and jump back into the car, and reverse.

“We went to the old bus terminus. People were running and rubber bullets were flying over my head.

“There was chaos everywhere. It was tense. There were people standing at their houses to see what was going on.

“It was an experience that you cannot describe to anyone else that wasn’t there.”

“I was heavily stressed because many of these guys mark you when you take photos of them.

“They knew that you were going to publish the photos, and they might retaliate. And I had a family and lived in Booysen Park at the time.”

He said he bemoans the losses that businesses suffered at the hands of looters.

“What did we get out of the uprising? People became poor. Look at where Morgan’s business was in Arcadia. It is only a shell.

“Look at Highfield Road. Alabama was one of the best hotels in the northern areas.

“I took social photographs there every Monday and Thursday evening for the Evening Post.

“What do we have in the northerns now? We have bad gangsterism.

“We say we want the army in the area, but when the army comes, then we moan. What is going on with our people?” he asked.

- HeraldLIVE

Veteran newspaper photographer Charles Pullen worked for the Evening Post for just over a month when the Northern Areas Uprising broke out on August 6 1990.

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