Pieter Hugo is a 44-year-old South African photographer born in Johannesburg, now based in Cape Town. Being a white African man and struggling to fit in, his subject of interest is Africa. He is well-known for exploring marginalized communities in Africa through his stark and provocative photography art.

The albinos, the blind, people with AIDS, the elderly, Ghanaian honey collectors, workers at the electronics dumpsite on the outskirts of Accra in Ghana, actors in the Nigerian movie industry known as Nollywood, Nigerian hyena handlers, and children who survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide are all among the subjects of Hugo's almost two decades of work.

His candid portraits show the world around him addressing culture, issues of class, identity, and privilege. The photographer described his work to Fashion Life as "direct, engaged, scrutinizing." We've collected the best of his powerful images. Don't forget to tell us what you think in the comments!

More info: pieterhugo.com | Instagram

#1

Abdulai Yahaya, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Abdulai Yahaya, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

Carole Deem
Community Member
1 month ago

MatthewSTrotman get a life and stop posting this where it doesn't belong

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Pieter Hugo started off his career as a photojournalist, but being a "fly on the wall" didn't sit well with him. However, his work opened up possibilities to explore his interests and find his own style.

"I was not a particularly good photojournalist. I was useless at being a fly on the wall. I wanted to make work that was more considered. The problem of my presence I made into the crux of my practice—acknowledging my presence, acknowledging the energy and dynamics between myself and my subjects. I think of my portraiture as slow journalism," Hugo told Fashion Life.

#2

Loyiso Mayga, Wandise Ngcama, Lunga White, Luyanda Mzantsi And Khungsile Mdolo After Their Initiation Ceremony, Mthatha, 2008, "Kin"

Loyiso Mayga, Wandise Ngcama, Lunga White, Luyanda Mzantsi And Khungsile Mdolo After Their Initiation Ceremony, Mthatha, 2008, "Kin"

Pieter Hugo Report

Sigmand Froid
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

Mzansi for sho!! Loxion Boys.

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#3

Mallam Galadima Ahmadu With Jamis, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Mallam Galadima Ahmadu With Jamis, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Pieter Hugo Report

OpalTheRainwing
Community Member
1 month ago

Poor person and Hiyena

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We asked Hugo what inspires his photography.

"I think inspiration comes in many forms. The challenge is to cultivate one’s perceptiveness to ideas. I do not have an overt goal. Mostly inspiration for work comes out of a desire to engage with the world. To look at it. To analyze it. To respond to it. Various projects have different ambitions. Some are concerned with the veracity of the portrait, others are born from a curious wanderlust."

#4

Pieter And Maryna Vermeulen With Timana Phosiwa, "Messina/Musina"

Pieter And Maryna Vermeulen With Timana Phosiwa, "Messina/Musina"

Pieter Hugo Report

Sinkvenice
Community Member
1 month ago

So many questions! :-D

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#5

Abdullahi Mohammed With Mainasara, Ogere-Remo, Nigeria, 2007, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Abdullahi Mohammed With Mainasara, Ogere-Remo, Nigeria, 2007, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Pieter Hugo Report

Bellatrix Lestrange
Community Member
1 month ago

That is a awesome photo.

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Hugo said that his interest in highlighting the reality of marginalized communities across Africa developed organically: "At the beginning of my career, I often had commissions around Africa. While on commission (or while researching a commission), I would often stumble across ideas and subjects that I felt deserved a longer and more scrutinous approach."

Portraits of Africa mark an early stage of his career; Hugo said he now has a much more global worldview and has personal work in the USA, China, Mexico, UK, France, and Nepal, among other parts of the world.

#6

At A Traffic Intersection, Johannesburg, 2011, "Kin"

At A Traffic Intersection, Johannesburg, 2011, "Kin"

Pieter Hugo Report

Zoe Hoesley
Community Member
1 month ago

Poor child

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#7

Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009, "Permanent Error"

Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

E. Rangel
Community Member
1 month ago

What does hell does permanent error mean that is written on various pictures

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This photo gallery illustrates Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa through Hugo's lens and consists of portraits from various photography series the artist has collected over the years. Featured in this article are shots from some of Hugo's most popular series: Looking Aside, Kin, Permanent Error, The Hyena and Other Men, Wild Honey Collectors, 1994, and Messina/Musina.

In his project "Looking Aside," Hugo intimately captures people whose appearance makes us look aside: albinos, the blind, the elderly, and even his own family. He makes us confront our prejudice toward people who are unusual and different in some ways.

"Photography was being used by the state as a tool of classification and separation. All South Africans were required to carry a photo ID. My series turns this loaded compositional style on its head to document people marginalised by the glib visual propaganda of the ‘new,’ liberated South Africa," Hugo explains on his website the frame he deliberately chose for the series.

#8

Garuba Yawu With Mora, Ogere-Remo, Nigeria, 2007, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Garuba Yawu With Mora, Ogere-Remo, Nigeria, 2007, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Pieter Hugo Report

Zoe Hoesley
Community Member
1 month ago

Monkey friend! =3

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#9

Yakubu Al Hasan, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009, "Permanent Error"

Yakubu Al Hasan, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

Carole Deem
Community Member
1 month ago

He has gone for the gold. Finds that can be recycled

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"Permanent Error" depicts a massive dumpsite for technological waste from around the world on the outskirts of Ghana’s capital city, Accra, and the locals who collect and burn down the components to extract bits of valuable metals for resale, creating toxic waste and putting the area in danger.

"I think it is fair to say that Agbogbloshie is a dark and dirty monument to the digital age, to our faith in technology, and its built-in obsolescence. This idea of surplus and waste, which is key to our digital experience, is not one that many people seem comfortable addressing. Being in an environment like this, where geopolitical imbalances are being exploited to effectively dump waste on poor countries, it is hard not to take a political position," Hugo says.

#10

Agbogbloshie Market, Zakaria Salifu, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Agbogbloshie Market, Zakaria Salifu, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

Carole Deem
Community Member
1 month ago

This is 2010 here. But will probably be the same in 2024

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#11

Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana 2009, "Permanent Error"

Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana 2009, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

David Retsler
Community Member
1 month ago

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Not a good way to advertise cheese.

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"The Hyena and Other Men," shot in Nigeria, is the most popular series, which portrays a group of itinerants who perform with hyenas, baboons, and pythons to entertain crowds and sell traditional medicines. The striking photos explore the relationship between people and animals they have taken out of the wild as pups.

"The hyena men are a family and what they do with the animals has a long history and traditions. I don’t agree with it. But I can see the beauty in their relationships with the animals. And cruelty. I guess like all relationships, there are multiple dynamics at play. It's opaque to me. It’s difficult to take a judgmental position towards them. They are also dealing with economic realities different from most people in the world," Hugo told us.

#12

Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

David Retsler
Community Member
1 month ago

What are they burning and why? (Styrofoam?)

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#13

Paul Ankomah, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana, 2005, "Wild Honey Collectors"

Paul Ankomah, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana, 2005, "Wild Honey Collectors"

Pieter Hugo Report

Ellen Ranks
Community Member
1 month ago

Sweet!

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"Wild Honey Collectors" captures men in central Ghana covered in leaves and plastic bags. They perform a very dangerous job of harvesting honey from wild bee colonies.

"Honey is harvested by burning the tree nests. As a result, the honey often has soot in it and can only be sold at local markets for low prices. It is a very destructive form of labour, but it is their only means of earning a living," Hugo writes on his website.

#14

Aron Twala, Vrede, 2006, "Looking Aside"

Aron Twala, Vrede, 2006, "Looking Aside"

Pieter Hugo Report

Talie Bocci
Community Member
1 month ago

Beautiful

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#15

Regina Kambule, Johannesburg, 2003, "Looking Aside"

Regina Kambule, Johannesburg, 2003, "Looking Aside"

Pieter Hugo Report

Jean Shultz
Community Member
1 month ago

Her eyes speaks volumes.....

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"1994" is a series that captures children from South Africa and Rwanda born after 1994. Both countries were marked by major historical events in 1994 and the series depicts a generation of children growing up in the post-revolutionary era.

"Most of the images were taken in villages around Rwanda and South Africa. There’s a thin line between nature being seen as idyllic and as a place where terrible things happen—permeated by genocide, a constantly contested space. Seen as a metaphor, it’s as if the further you leave the city and its systems of control, the more primal things become. At times the children appear conservative, existing in an orderly world; at other times there’s something feral about them, as in Lord of the Flies, a place devoid of rules. This is most noticeable in the Rwanda images where clothes donated from Europe, with particular cultural significations, are transposed into a completely different context."

#16

South Africa, 2016, "1994"

South Africa, 2016, "1994"

Pieter Hugo Report

Sue Giles
Community Member
1 month ago

She looks so out of place,

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See Also on Fashion Life
#17

Rwanda, 2014, "1994"

Rwanda, 2014, "1994"

Pieter Hugo Report

R L
Community Member
1 month ago

Oh child. It should not be like this.

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The series "Kin" captures the intimate and public South Africa through portraits, landscapes, and still lifes and explores its deeply rooted social issues.

"South Africa is such a fractured, schizophrenic, wounded and problematic place. It is a very violent society; the scars of colonialism and apartheid still run deep. Issues of race and cultural custodianship permeate every aspect of society, and the legacy of forced racial segregation casts a long shadow. How does one live in this society? How does one take responsibility for history, and to what extent should one try? How do you raise a family in such a conflicted society?" Hugo writes.

The artist took a similar approach in his project about South Africa's northernmost town on the border with Zimbabwe, Musina. He reflects the wounds and scars of race, class, and nationality that persist there.

#18

Rwanda, 2014, "1994"

Rwanda, 2014, "1994"

Pieter Hugo Report

Ames101 Doyle
Community Member
1 month ago

gorgeous!!

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#19

Rwanda, 2015, "1994"

Rwanda, 2015, "1994"

Pieter Hugo Report

Arctic Fox Lover
Community Member
1 month ago

Pretty dress! She looks very nice in it <3

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"The most challenging part of my work is editing. Photographers are gnarly, terrible editors," Hugo said. "The most rewarding part of my work is that it very rarely bores me. It keeps me stimulated and curious."

#20

Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

Jean Shultz
Community Member
1 month ago

Computer keyboard in the foreground. Do western countries use 3rd world countries as their own dumping ground?? I'm sure the leaders of these countries would gladly take the money, but the trash isn't in there own back yards....it should be.

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#21

Dayaba Usman With The Monkey Clear, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Dayaba Usman With The Monkey Clear, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Pieter Hugo Report

Lillian Harper
Community Member
1 month ago

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is it weird that this made my day?

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Hugo's controversial work has sparked contrasting reactions around the world, but he remains one of the best South African photographers for his honest and direct approach. 

""I’m always surprised by the issues my detractors take with my work. Dialogue is good, right? Having conversations about difficult topics is necessary. If my work provokes debate, I'm happy. It means it is relevant," he said.

His artwork has been shown in major solo exhibitions across the world's best museums such as Museu Coleção Berardo in Lisbon, Museum für Kuns und Kulturgeschichte in Dortmund, The National Portrait Gallery in London, the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane, Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow, Ludwig Museum in Budapest, Fotografiska in Stockholm, MAXXI in Rome, and more as well as many group exhibitions at institutions including Tate Modern, the Folkwang Museum, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, and the São Paulo Bienal.

His photographs have landed in prominent public and private collections, among them MOMA NY, V&A, Centre Pompidou, J Paul Getty Museum, and The Rijks Museum. In 2018, Hugo received the Discovery Award at the Rencontres d'Arles Festival and the KLM Paul Huf Award and in 2011, the Seydou Keita Award at the Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial.

#22

The Hyena Men Of Abuja, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

The Hyena Men Of Abuja, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Pieter Hugo Report

Carole Deem
Community Member
1 month ago

Are they pets or protection?

Michaela
Community Member
1 month ago

Tortured for profit. There are organizations out there trying to teach people like this other skills so they do not continue abuse of animals. For example wildlife sos sends the kids to school and the parents learn skills. It’s infuriating to see the animals abused but they must be shown how to make a living without them in order to permanently save the animals

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GalaxyZo
Community Member
1 month ago

they are very pretty animals

Yeah, you heard
Community Member
1 month ago

This is horrendous. Let wild animals be wild. Don't muzzle them and clothe them and sit yoit kid on them.

Jamie Smith
Community Member
1 month ago

@David Retsler - I'm unsure if you didn't get what they were saying, genuinely or you're just being a racist troll, while calling someone else racist. I'll just assume that you misunderstood. Artic Fox Lover is referring to dogs, cats, etc and how people in more "civilized" countries keep their pets. They spay and neuter them (cut off their genitals), feed them dry kibble full of grains that dogs, at least, can't even process (eat dried up processed foods) and most pet have their animals wear a collar of some kind that usually has a tag showing who owns them (wearing a strip of cloth and/or leather...). I may not completely agree with what the hyena men do but I do see the irony in the the person's post about letting wild animals be wild. I understand completely that there's a huge difference in a domestic dog or cat and a group of men who, sometimes, take a baby or young animal from its mother to train for entertainment.

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Amanda Hunter
Community Member
1 month ago

Poor animals.

Joan Brocklehurst
Community Member
1 month ago

More chained animals, so wrong!

Marty BlackEagle-Carl
Community Member
1 month ago

better as pets than food.

Demon Deadly Dragon
Community Member
1 month ago

Why are they so mean to the hyenas?

Diane Patrick
Community Member
1 month ago

Poor creatures.

Samantha Comerford
Community Member
1 month ago

That poor dog 😭😭😭😭

Lillian Harper
Community Member
1 month ago

Those poor hyenas! They are my fav animals. They do not deserve to be treated like this!

Talie Bocci
Community Member
1 month ago

The shirts on the monkeys... the color juxtaposition is striking.

Freddie Mercury
Community Member
1 month ago

right?

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Brigs
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

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Your photos of these poor animals in captivity are disturbing! Africa wonders why its wildlife numbers are declining and it is partly because this happens, that is if they do not get shot and sold. I cannot believe that in this day and age this is even allowed to happen, it breaks my heart and soul! Have you reported this or did you merely take pictures?

Bib HD
Community Member
1 month ago

Your point of view obviously comes from a western country, if you've ever visited countries like this you know its different for them. These animals are like our wild deer and rabbits. We just happened to develop a certain emotion in connection with these animals. This is probably the only way for these men to generate income. And before you comment about getting a job, with this they can provide themselves better than with a local supermarket job where they work 12hour shift.

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David Retsler
Community Member
1 month ago

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Why isn't this titled "The Monkey Men with Some Hyenas"?

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#23

South Africa, 2015, "1994"

South Africa, 2015, "1994"

Pieter Hugo Report

Omar Pearson
Community Member
1 month ago

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Error: 404

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#24

Abdulai Yahaya, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Abdulai Yahaya, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

Talie Bocci
Community Member
1 month ago

The cleanliness of the jacket brings out the white of the smoke and garbage flakes. Really nice.

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#25

Mummy Ahmadu And A Snake Charmer With A Rock Python, Abuja, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Mummy Ahmadu And A Snake Charmer With A Rock Python, Abuja, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Pieter Hugo Report

Zoe Hoesley
Community Member
1 month ago

Gentle snake friend =3

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#26

Nura Garuba And Friend With Their Monkey, Abuja, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Nura Garuba And Friend With Their Monkey, Abuja, Nigeria, 2005, "The Hyena And Other Men"

Pieter Hugo Report

Marty BlackEagle-Carl
Community Member
1 month ago

ii wonder what the baboon's thinking.

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#27

Martin Kofi, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana, 2005, "Wild Honey Collectors"

Martin Kofi, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana, 2005, "Wild Honey Collectors"

Pieter Hugo Report

Jean Shultz
Community Member
1 month ago

Very hard work to be able to earn a bit of money.

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#28

Issaku Moses, Agbogbloshie Market, Ghana, 2009, "Permanent Error"

Issaku Moses, Agbogbloshie Market, Ghana, 2009, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

Diane Patrick
Community Member
1 month ago

So much pollution.

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#29

Al Hasan Abukari, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009, "Permanent Error"

Al Hasan Abukari, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

Tiredpossum
Community Member
1 month ago

it's interesting to see this. I have visited Ghana a few times (I have family there) I only see the great rich parts because if my families social status. It's very eye opening about the poverty there. I will certainly talk to my family about it.

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#30

Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2010, "Permanent Error"

Pieter Hugo Report

Jean Shultz
Community Member
1 month ago

Yay.....more toxic fumes. More than what you can inhale......come one, come all. Death will sneak upon you.

Note: this post originally had 115 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.