Top, Gerhard Richter, Neger (Nuba), 1964, Oil on canvas, 145 x 200 cm. Bottom, photograph by George Rodger, Sudan. Kordofan. The Nubas. Dinka and Nuer girls dressed for ceremonial dance, 1949. Via. More via Magnum.
When Rodger’s photos first appeared in National Geographic in 1952 they enthralled many people, possibly none more so than Riefenstahl. On seeing the National Geographic story, the director of Triumph of the Will wrote to Rodger asking for his help to find the Nuba villages for a film project she was planning. Rodger refused.
'It was not long after the war, you see, and I was not feeling very partial to Nazi Germany in those days.' During the Second World War, as the German Army was retreating, George Rodger stumbled across Belsen and became first outsider and the first photographer to see the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. 'So I wrote back (to Riefenstahl) saying: 'I am quite sure, considering your background and mine, I don't really have anything to say to you at all.' I never got a reply to that and it was about 15 years later she managed to find her own way there,' Rodger says.
Nevertheless, a note on the dustjacket of Riefenstahl’s first book, The Last of The Nuba (1973), under the famous wrestler photo, credits Rodger’s work for inspiring her. ‘The author was so fascinated by this photograph taken by the famous English photographer George Rodger (he is in fact a Scot) that for years she tried to find the Nuba in order to study the life of these primitive people.’ A personal inscription added: ‘Without the influence of your picture … this book would be never (sic) printed. Now we both are friends of ‘our’ Nuba People.’
Robert Block, Then and Now: In 1949, George Rodger took the picture opposite of a triumphant Nuba wrestler in central Sudan. It became one of the most famous of all photographs of Africa. Last month, forty-four years later, Rodger met another Nuba man - an envoy from a people now brutally persecuted, for The Independent, 1993.