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Pieter Hugo (born 1976)[1] is a photographer who primarily works in portraiture and whose work engages with both documentary and art traditions with a focus on African communities.[2] He lives in Cape Town.[3]

Pieter Hugo
Born (1976-10-29) 29 October 1976 (age 42)
Years active2002 – present


Life and workEdit

Hugo was born 1976 in Johannesburg, South Africa. After working in the film industry in Cape Town, he spent a two-year residency at Fabrica research centre, Treviso, Italy.[4]

Hugo's photography deals with "marginalized or unusual groups of people: honey gatherers in Ghana, Nigerian town criers with hyenas and baboons (traditional storytellers who performed in the streets and sold potions after their shows), Boy Scouts in Liberia, taxi washers in Durban, judges in Botswana".[3] Explaining his interest in the marginal he has said, "My homeland is Africa, but I'm white. I feel African, whatever that means, but if you ask anyone in South Africa if I'm African, they will almost certainly say no. I don't fit into the social topography of my country and that certainly fueled why I became a photographer."[5]

Hugo's first major work Looking Aside (2006) is portraits of people "whose appearance makes us look aside"[6] – the blind, people with albinism, the aged, his family and himself.[6] Each man, woman and child poses in a sterile studio setting, under crisp light against a blank background.[3] His Rwanda 2004: Vestiges of a Genocide (2011) was described by the Rwanda Genocide Institute as offering "a forensic view of some of the sites of mass execution and graves that stand as lingering memorials to the many thousands of people slaughtered."[7] Hugo's most recognized work is The Hyena & Other Men (2007), which has received a great deal of attention.[5][8] His series Messina/Mussina (2007) was made in the town of Musina on the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa,[9] after Colors magazine asked Hugo to work on an AIDS story.[9] Nollywood (2009) consists of pictures of the Nigerian film industry.[10] For Permanent Error (2011) Hugo photographed the people and landscape of an expansive dump of obsolete technology in Ghana.[1] Sean O'Toole writes "if Nollywood was playfully over-the-top, a smart riposte to accusations of freakishness and racism levelled at his photography..., Permanent Error marks Hugo’s return to a less self-reflexive mode of practice."[11]

In 2011 Hugo collaborated with Michael Cleary, co-directing the music video for South African musician Spoek Mathambo's cover version of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control". For the video, Hugo won the Young Director Award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.[12][13] In 2015 he directed the music video for "Dirty", a song by controversial South African musical artists Dookoom.[14]

In the Spring of 2014, Hugo was commissioned by Creative Court[15] to work in Rwanda for its "Rwanda 20 Years: Portraits of Forgiveness" project.[16] The project was displayed in The Hague in the Atrium of The Hague City Hall for the 20th commemoration of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. A selection of the photos have also been displayed in New York at the exhibition Post-Conflict which was curated by Bradley McCallum, artist in residence for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.[17][18]

In 2016 Hugo collaborated with Hood By Air on a publication.[19]


Publications by HugoEdit

  • Looking Aside. Punctum, 2006. ISBN 978-88-95410-00-5.
  • The Hyena & Other Men Munich: Prestel, 2007. ISBN 978-3791339603. With an essay by Adetokunbo Abiola.
  • Messina/Musina. Munich: Punctum, 2007. ISBN 978-88-95410-03-6. With a short story by Stacy Hardy, "The Donkey Fuckers", and a conversation between Hugo and Joanna Lehan.
  • Nollywood. Munich: Prestel, 2009. ISBN 978-3791343129. With texts by Chris Abani, Stacy Hardy and Zina Saro-Wiwa.
  • Rwanda 2004: Vestiges of a Genocide. London; Paris: oodee, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9570389-0-5. Edition of 500 copies. With an essay by Linda Melvern.
  • Permanent Error. Munich: Prestel, 2011. ISBN 978-3791345208..
  • This Must Be The Place: Selected Works. Munich: Prestel, 2012. ISBN 978-3791346892. With essays by TJ Demos and Aaron Schuman.
  • There's a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends. London; Paris: oodee, 2012. ISBN 978-095703-892-9.
  • Kin. New York: Aperture, 2014. ISBN 978-1597113014. With a short story by Ben Okri.
  • The Journey. Self-published, 2015. Newspaper format.
  • Flat Noodle Soup Talk. Paris: Bessard, 2016. ISBN 979-10-91406-48-2. Edition of 500 copies. Photographs made in Beijing.

Publications with contributions by HugoEdit

  • 9 Weeks. Cape Town: Stevenson, 2016. ISBN 978-0-620-69507-7. By Hansi Momodu-Gordon. Transcripts of interviews between Momodu-Gordon and people represented by Stevenson – Serge Alain Nitegeka, Mawande Ka Zenzile, Deborah Poynton, Pieter Hugo, Viviane Sassen, Nicholas Hlobo, Nandipha Mntambo, Dineo Seshee Bopape and Meleko Mokgosi, and short essays by Momodu-Gordon.



Critical receptionEdit

While receiving a lot of 'critical bouquets', Hugo has also been accused of sensationalising and exploiting the exotic "other". Hugo responds, "My intentions are in no way malignant, yet somehow people pick it up in that way. I've travelled through Africa, I know it, but at the same time I'm not really part of it... I can't claim to [have] an authentic voice, but I can claim to have an honest one."[2]

Figures and Fictions exhibition co-curator Tamar Garb is ambivalent about the ethical questions his work poses: "Some people feel his work perpetuates an image of Africa as a space of abject poverty and of theatrical display for a Western art market – but he genuinely engages with the places he works in and questions the means of his own representation."[2]

In "The Photography of Pieter Hugo" in Aperture Magazine, Bronwyn Law-Viljoen says: "The novelist John Fowles observes, in an essay on The French Lieutenant's Woman, that 'All human modes of description (photographic, mathematical…) are metaphorical. Even the most precise scientific description of an object or a movement is a tissue of metaphors.'[27] "Hugo understands that a photographic metaphor, a way of describing something through reference to something else, is created as much by the elements inside the frame of the image itself as by the carefully chosen distance, what I have called the critical zone, from the photographer’s lens to his subject. It is within this zone that Hugo "maneuvers through the muddy waters of political engagement, documentary responsibility, and the relationship of these to his own aesthetic."[28]


Solo exhibitionsEdit

  • 2002: Margin, the Cold Room Photographic Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2004: Rwanda 2004: Vestiges of a Genocide, Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa[29]
  • 2004: The Albino Project, National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome, Italy, 2004; Fabrica Features, Lisbon, Portugal, 2004
  • 2006: Looking Aside, Warren Siebrits Contemporary, Johannesburg, South Africa[30] Stephen Cohen Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, 2007[31]
  • 2006: Presence, Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa;[32] Galerie Bertrand & Gruner, Geneva, Switzerland[33]
  • 2007: Messina/Musina, Extraspazio, Rome, Italy;[34] Standard Bank Young Artist Award 2007 touring exhibition, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum, Port Elizabeth; Durban Art Gallery, Durban; Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein; Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa, 2008; Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2008[35]
  • 2007: Pieter Hugo: The Hyena & Other Men, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, 2007[36] Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2008;[37] Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Herzliya, Israel, 2010;[38] Photographic Centre Peri, Turku, Finland, 2010; Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, 2012[39]
  • 2008: Works 2002-2007, Galerie Bertrand & Gruner, Geneva, Switzerland[40]
  • 2008: Nollywood, Warren Siebrits Contemporary, 2008[41] Johannesburg, South Africa, 2008; Australian Center for Photography, Sydney, Australia, 2009;[42] Extraspazio, Rome, Italy, 2009;[42] Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa, 2009;[43] Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, Australia, 2010;[44] Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, 2010; Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, 2010;[45] Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, 2010;[46] Cokkie Snoei Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2010;[47]
  • 2008: Portraits, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, UK, 2008; Ffotogallery, Cardiff, UK, 2008[48]
  • 2008: God’s Time is the Best, Cokkie Snoei Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands[49]
  • 2008: Pieter Hugo: Selected Works, Tinglado 2, Tarragona, Spain, 2008[50] Tinglado 2, Tarragona, Spain, 2009.[51]
  • 2010: Be Prepared!, Cokkie Snoei Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands[52]
  • 2010: On Reality and Other Stories, Le château d’eau, pôle photographique de Toulouse, Toulouse, France, 2010; Forest Centre Culturel, BRASS, Brussels, Belgium, 2010[53]
  • 2010: Permanent Error, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa, 2010; Brodie Stevenson, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2010;[54] Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto, Canada, 2011;[55] Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, 2011[45]
  • 2011-2012: There's A Place in Hell for Me and my Friends, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa[56]
  • 2013: This must be the place - Selected works 2003-2012, Ludwig Museum, Budapest[57]
  • 2013: Kin, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa, 2013;[58] Fondation Cartier-Bresson, Paris, 2015;[59] Priska Pasquer, Cologne, Germany, 2016.[60]
  • 2014: The Journey, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa [61][62]
  • 2015: Portraits: From the unsaid to the un-dead, Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean, Mauritius[63]
  • 2015: In Focus, National Portrait Gallery, London, United Kingdom[64]
  • 2016: 1994, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa[65]

Group exhibitionsEdit

  • 2001: New South African Art, JAK Gallery, London[66]
  • 2009: A Life Less Ordinary: Performance and display in South African art, Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK[67]
  • 2009: Creating Identity: Portraits Today, 21c Museum Hotels, Louisville, KY[68]
  • 2010: Halakasha!, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa[69]
  • 2010: Life Less Ordinary: Performance and display in South African art, Ffotogallery, Cardiff, Wales[70]
  • 2010: 1910-2010: From Pierneef to Gugulective, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2010: Lie of the Land: Representations of the South African Landscape, Iziko Old Town House Museum,[71] Cape Town, South Africa; Sanlam Gallery, Bellville, South Africa
  • 2010: After A, Photo Notes on South Africa, Atri Reportage Festival, Atri, Italy[72]
  • 2010: This is Our Time, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa[73]
  • 2010: Disquieting Images, Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy[74]
  • 2010: Counterlives, Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC[75]
  • 2010: Sharon Stone in Abuja, Location One, New York, NY[76]
  • 2010: Breaking News: Contemporary photography from the Middle East and Africa, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio Provincia di Modena, Italy[citation needed]
  • 2011: Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography, Victoria and Albert Museum, London[77][78]


  1. ^ a b "Pieter Hugo". Pieter Hugo. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  2. ^ a b c Hugh Montgomery (2011-04-09). "Africa united: Photographer Pieter Hugo casts a new light on tired stereotypes of his home continent | Features | Culture". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  3. ^ a b c Leah Ollman (February 9, 2007), Photography that goes only skin deep Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ "Pieter Hugo on artnet". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  5. ^ a b Sean O'Hagan. "Africa as you've never seen it | Art and design". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  6. ^ a b "Looking Aside". Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  7. ^ "Rwanda 2004: Vestiges of a Genocide". Archived from the original on 29 May 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  8. ^ "5B4: The Hyena & Other Men by Pieter Hugo". 2007-11-30. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  9. ^ a b "Messina/Musina". Pieter Hugo. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  10. ^ "Nollywood". Pieter Hugo. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  11. ^ "Sean O'Toole on Pieter Hugo's Permanent Error". Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  12. ^ a b Van Wyk, Lisa (2011-06-24). "Pieter Hugo wins Young Director Award at Cannes". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  13. ^ a b "Spoek Mathambo "Control"". Young Director Award. 2011. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  14. ^ "Texx and the City interview Dookoom about 'Dirty' music video (directed by Pieter Hugo)". 20 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Creative Court". Creative Court. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  16. ^ "Creativecourt". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  17. ^ "Coalition launches Arts Initiative to enrich dialogue on global justice |". 2014-04-08. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  18. ^ "Kinz + Tillou Fine Art - RECENT: Bradley McCallum PORTRAITS OF JUSTICE & Post Conflict Exhibition - RECENT: Bradley McCallum PORTRAITS OF JUSTICE & Post Conflict". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ "2005, Pieter Hugo, 1st prize, Portraits". 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  21. ^ World press photo award 2005,
  22. ^ "Pieter Hugo wins Standard Bank Young Artist Award 07". The South African Art Times. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  23. ^ [2][dead link]
  24. ^ Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012 Archived 14 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 15 March 2013.
  25. ^ Brown, Mark (3 September 2012). "Deutsche Börse photography prize won by John Stezaker". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  26. ^ "Shortlist announced for Prix Pictet Disorder | Prix Pictet | The global award in photography and sustainability". Prix Pictet. 2015-11-12. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  27. ^ John Fowles, Wormholes: Essays and Occasional Writings. London: Jonathan Cape, 1998, p. 16.
  28. ^ Law-Viljoen, Bronwyn. ‘Pieter Hugo: The Critical Zone of Engagement.’ Aperture. Spring 2007.
  29. ^ "Michael Stevenson Contemporary". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  30. ^ Warren Siebrits (2010-01-26). "modern and contemporary art". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  31. ^ "Archives 2007". Stephen Cohen Gallery. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  32. ^ "STEVENSON | Pieter Hugo". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  33. ^ "Exhibitions | Galerie Sébastien Bertrand". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  34. ^ "e x t r a s p a z i o". (in Italian). Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  35. ^ "Event View - Calendar – Iziko Museums". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  36. ^ "Yossi Milo Gallery - Exhibitions - Pieter Hugo". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  37. ^ "2008: Year in Review". Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  38. ^ "Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art - pieter Hugo". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  39. ^ Pieter Hugo. "Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow | Exhibitions | Pieter Hugo - The Hyena and Other Men". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  40. ^ "Galerie Sébastien Bertrand". Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  41. ^ Warren Siebrits (2010-01-26). "modern and contemporary art". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  42. ^ a b "e x t r a s p a z i o". (in Italian). Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  43. ^ "Michael Stevenson - Pieter Hugo". 2009-02-21. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  44. ^ "Greenaway Art Gallery : Adelaide Australia". 2007-03-04. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  45. ^ a b "Yossi Milo Gallery - Exhibitions - Pieter Hugo". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  46. ^ "Exhibitions". Institute of Modern Art. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  47. ^ "Exhibition - Nollywood". Cokkie Snoei. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  48. ^ "Pieter Hugo – Portraits". 2008-10-19. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  49. ^ "Exhibition - GOD\'S TIME IS THE BEST". Cokkie Snoei. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  50. ^ "Tinglado 2 Espai d'art contemporani". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  51. ^ "Yossi Milo Gallery - Pieter Hugo".
  52. ^ "Exhibition - BE PREPARED!". Cokkie Snoei. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  53. ^ "Forest Centre Culturel". PDN Photo of the Day. 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  54. ^ "Michael Stevenson - Pieter Hugo". 2010-09-04. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  55. ^ Scotiabank CONTACT Festival. "Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  56. ^ "STEVENSON - Pieter Hugo".
  57. ^ "Pieter Hugo: This Must Be The Place - Válogatott munkák 2003-2012 | LUDWIG MÚZEUM - Kortárs Művészeti Múzeum". 2013-01-20. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  58. ^ "STEVENSON - Pieter Hugo".
  59. ^ "Portrait intime de l'Afrique du Sud par Pieter Hugo" par Stéphanie Pioda dans Artistik Rezo 19 janvier 2015.
  60. ^ "Pieter Hugo, Kin – Priska Pasquer". 2016-04-09. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  62. ^ "PIETER HUGO, THE JOURNEY, 2015".
  63. ^ [3][dead link]
  65. ^ [4][dead link]
  66. ^ "Pieter Hugo Exhibitions". Widewalls.
  67. ^ "Exhibitions - A Life Less Ordinary - Performance And Display In South African Art". Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  68. ^ "Creating Identity: Portraits Today". 21c Museum. Archived from the original on 12 March 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  69. ^ "Halakasha: 2 June – 17 July 2010". Standard Bank Gallery. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  70. ^ "Life Less Ordinary: Performance and Display in South African Art". 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  71. ^ "Event View - Calendar – Iziko Museums". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  72. ^ "After A". Reportage Atri Festival. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  73. ^ "Michael Stevenson - This is Our Time". 2010-07-24. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  74. ^ "Triennale di Milano - Home". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  75. ^ "Counterlives". Ackland Art Museum. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  76. ^ "Location One » Sharon Stone in Abuja". Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  77. ^ "Today | What's On | Victoria and Albert Museum". 2015-06-16. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  78. ^ Gevisser, Mark (23 April 2011). "Figures & Fictions at the V&A". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2017.

External linksEdit