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Michael Joseph was born in 1941 in Kimberly, the capital of South Africa's Northern Cape Province. His father was heavily involved in the Anti-Apartheid activities, especially fundraising. All of this gave Michael early exposure to politicians and social reportage from South Africa. On arriving in London in 1962, Joseph studied at The London College of Printing and Graphic Arts. During his time at university he was sent to Vietnam to photograph the war and as a result he was commissioned to many advertising assignments and made his name as a photographer. 

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