‘A Response to Pieter Hugo’s Photographs’


General Culture

As I noted elsewhere, a little while ago Jim Johnson published a pretty harsh criticism of Pieter Hugo’s work, saying that the photographer seemed “to portray Africa as a freak show”. I’m torn about Hugo’s work, some I like very much (such as Looking Aside or Messina / Musina), some I think deserves to be called out by Jim (this would be The Hyena and Other Men and Nollywood). Of course, my preferences are solely based on looking at the photographs (I own two of the books) and on reacting to them based on a) what I know about photography, b) how I view photography, c) what I like and don’t like in photography, and d) what I know about Africa from reading about it (I have never been there myself) and from talking with a good photographer friend who spent a long time taking photos there. Today, Amy Stein published a piece written by Sebastien Boncy, which makes Jim’s post sound pretty tame. Of course, throwing in the word “racism” means pouring a lot of kerosine into the flames; but hopefully, the piece will initiate a debate that will talk about the issues and help clearing things up a bit.