Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pieter Hugo

Camouflaged in all of this mess, I can not understand whether he is trying to go unnoticed, or if he is just that unimportant that no one is taking note of him. Is he to be discarded like the rest of this junk? Or is the stuff junk at all? It is someone's secret stash of goods?

What are these children doing? Not dressed in black face... But in white face? Is that what this is? Is this a joke? Did they just run through some chalk and I'm just reading it like an adult with political insinuations? Where are they? What is the factory type building behind them? Where are their toys? I don't understand....

Can we sayyyy AMAZING... I saw these images and was seriously confused. That is the most accurate description I can give... I looked at them not sure if it was fantasy, documentary, culture difference, etc.

The name of the series that got me pumped, Nollywood. It's the third largest film industry in the world. This setting is far from Hollywood glamour though. The stories told in these movies are not done through speaking, but through shouting. The stories often lived out are by local actors and actress on cultural myths and stories. In addition to these myths and stories the average setting of Nollywood is added. The typical setting these people live in is what most Hollywood would travel far to capture, or spend thousands to remake. These are done constantly though and on low budgets.

Pieter Hugo has submerged himself into their world of documentary/ fantasy. He captures these images of their "movie stills", and delivers shocking portrayals of these "monsters" and their lives. There is a lot to be discussed and considered when viewing the images. First, it is that the people are using their natural environment to make the photographs. They are using cultural myths and stories from their histories. However, they are delivering stories. And their straight stare into the camera with such composure is unsettling. We are trained to look away at morbid scenes. But when someone stares straight at you, you can't help but to stop and stare back. It's instinct. We are pulled into the images by this head on approach and bizarre subject matter. Wondering what is real in the photograph and what is not. Who are these people.. What political statements are being made? Many of them are in what appears to be "white face" many of them are dealing with authority and submission. Some are conflicting sexual pulls.

Domination?? On sooo many levels? Pure movie reference?

Standard living? Or more chalk playing?
Clash between rich and poor? Statement about perception? Struggle to be more than their surroundings? Confident in defeat?
Staged punishment? Typical cultural punishment? Statement about sexual roles in society? In all society? Or just theirs? Why are they so casual for such an awful appearance? Is this normal? Are they just use to it?
Part of a cultural mask or story? Part of an act?

I can't speak enough about the different implication in all of these images.. But I would strongly suggest looking into the entire site to gather the complete information on this series and more images... They are so conflicting my head is left spinning.. It took me hours to look at the images and figure out how I felt about them.. And the best part.. I can't figure out what I feel about them. Adding the information to these images that explained it is part truth, part fiction leaves my head with loose ends all around the pictures. I love the lack of knowledge and understand I feel looking at them.. Odd enjoying the sense of bewilderment.


  1. Very good. Many social issues do seem to be raised. Also notions of authorship. What is the role of the artist here... facilitator, documentarian, myth-maker (or reinforcer), provocateur. Who comes away with the gain here? The photographer, the subject, Nigeria? All of the above? Does anyone lose? Is this work a critique, a celebration, or some complex amalgam? In many ways, the strategy is similar to good old Ralph Eugene Meatyard, with respect to the masks and archetypal identities (and the deadpan), but with the loaded complexity that global capitalism brings to the third world.

  2. But see.. All of those questions you raised are all the questions that make it so wonderfully complicated and interesting. You can explore them... and they should be explored...however, all I can do is speculate.. Because even reading the authors statement directly involving these images, does not explain all my questions.

  3. This is one of the best works I've found in quite some time. Pretty pleased with it.