“The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it.”
On 3 February 1960, Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, made his controversial ‘Wind of Change’ speech to a hostile South African Parliament, in which he signalled his government’s intention to roll out independence to many of the British colonies. The speech was received in stony silence, particularly his critical comments on South Africa’s abhorrent policy of apartheid.
In 1964, The Sunday Times Magazine commissioned journalist Richard West and photographer John Bulmer to document the radical changes sweeping through Africa, devoting a whole issue to their report, ‘The White Tribes of Africa’. Visiting 14 countries over a two-month period, John captured the dying embers of colonialism set against a growing African nationalism.
Africa was just a starting point and over the next 15 years, John continued photographing the profound social and political changes sweeping across the world, from the slow disintegration of the Middle East and the early signs of the collapse of the Communist bloc, to the totalitarianism of China and North Korea.
In the mid-sixties, as now, America was a country of extremes, but the grinding, hopeless poverty of two very different areas – Appalachia in East Kentucky and Oakland, California – was still a shocking contrast to the rest of America’s wealth. President Johnson’s War on Poverty, launched in 1964, appeared to have had little effect. In South America, as capitalism and communism fought out their ideological battle, Bulmer brilliantly captured the collusion between the military and church for control of the hearts and minds of the people.
The pictures in this book offer a glimpse of a changing world. Colour photography as journalism was new at that time. Until the publication of the first colour supplement by The Sunday Times in 1962, colour photography had been used for advertising, fashion or travel pictures but rarely for photojournalism. John Bulmer was a pioneer and his work is now receiving the recognition it deserves.