Throughout his career, the South African photographer Pieter Hugo has been capturing the visible and hidden traces and scars of lived biographies, as well as the experienced history of his nation and the whole African continent. A comprehensive survey of his work, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, advances the scope and reach of his compelling oeuvre.
Pieter Hugo has developed a keen sense for social dissonance as he grew up in the post-Apartheid reality of South Africa. In powerful portraits, still lifes and landscapes, the photographer has striven to capture the African continent with empathy and impartiality, treating all of his subjects with the same amount of respect. Appearing as social and political commentaries or metaphors, his photographs tackle the issues of identity, belonging, exclusion and the visible and invisible codes that unite and divide subgroups. He poses questions on how people from different social classes and contexts deal with their historical baggage and living conditions. As he once explained, his work is “about outsiderness and the margins and the periphery of society, whether that’s literal or metaphorical.”
Published to accompany Hugo’s survey exhibition at Kunstmuseum in Wolfsburg, Germany in 2017, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea spans 13 years of the artist’s rich and prolific career. It features images from each of his major series: from Looking Aside, comprised of a series of portraits of marginalized people, such as the albinos, blind and elderly; to Rwanda, 2004: Vestiges of Genocide, confronting the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda; The Hyena and Other Men, accompanying Nigerian itinerant minstrels who tame hyenas, snakes and monkeys for their livelihood; Nollywood, providing an insight into Nigeria’s dynamic film industry; Permanent Error, featuring striking portraits of people who gather electrical scrap metal in apocalyptic scenarios; to his most recent series taking in the U.S. and China, Californian Wildflowers and Flat Noodle Soup Talk.
In addition to stunning reproductions of Hugo’s work in color and black and white, the monograph features the photographer's personal commentary on each of the series and essays by the museum’s director Ralf Beil and curator Uta Ruhkamp.
Pieter Hugo’s The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea can be purchased from Prestel Publishing for $60 in paperback.
Photo credits: © Pieter Hugo / Stevenson gallery, Cape Town/Johannesburg. Abdullahi Mohammed with Mainasara, Lagos, Nigeria, and Emeka, motorcyclist and Abdullahi Ahmadu Asaba, Nigeria, both from the series “The Hyena & Other Men”, 2005-2007, 2007.