Sam Nzima: The man behind the iconic photo of the fight against apartheid

South African photographer Sam Nzima dashed to the scene of a shooting during the June 1976 students' uprising against apartheid just in time to see a child falling to the ground.

It was when another student picked up the dying 13-year-old Hector Pieterson that Nzima clicked to take one of the most iconic photographs in history, becoming a symbol of the brutality of the white minority regime, which flashed around the world.

In a 2010 BBC interview, Nzima, who has died aged 83, recalled: "I didn't know who it was. I saw a child falling down.

"I rushed there with my camera.

"And I saw another young man pick him up and as soon as he had picked him up, I started shooting the pictures.

"It was a very high risk because this picture was taken under a shower of bullets," he said.

The self-taught photographer

Born in August 1934, Nzima, the son of a farm labourer, was fascinated by photography after a teacher at school had shown him how to use his camera.

A young Nzima bought his own camera and began taking pictures in the world renowned Kruger National Park.

Sam Nzima fled to Johannesburg to escape hard labour GETTY IMAGES

But his own story also illustrated the injustice of the apartheid regime which the students were protesting against.

His father's employer, a white farmer, forced him to work in the Eastern Transvaal, now known as Mpumalanga.

After nine months' hard labour, he ran away to the country's commercial hub Johannesburg, where he found a job as a gardener in one of the posh suburbs.

In 1956 he was employed as a waiter at the Savoy Hotel and began to take portraits of his fellow workers.

He continued honing his skills even after he moved to the Chelsea Hotel and that's where he began reading the Rand Daily Newspaper.

He was transfixed by stories that were critical of the apartheid government written by the late award-winning journalist and editor Allister Sparks in the newspaper.

Nzima started sending his own pictures to The World newspaper and also submitted a story he had compiled while travelling on a bus.

The editor was so impressed with his work that he employed him as a full-time staff photojournalist in 1968.

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