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 Bored Panda 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

View more comments

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 Bored Panda.

#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.

View more comments
#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

Brigs
Community Member
1 month ago

What is going on in this photo and why would you take a picture of such dire cruelty?

Jamie Smith
Community Member
1 month ago

They are called Hyena Men. I watched an interesting documentary on them awhile back. They basically take hyenas, and other "dangerous" animals, and perform with them. It's almost like a traveling carnival of sorts. There are some men that train baboons (I probably have the type wrong so don't quote me on that) to get money from the crowds. These men train the animals from the time they (the animals) are young and travel all over with their families... almost "gypsies" from back when. (I know "gypsies" and "gypsy" aren't correct words to use anymore but I'm using it as an example, sorry)

Load More Replies...
GalaxyZo
Community Member
1 month ago

i love animals and i wanna be a vet so i already know this animal has been abused or hurt cause its tail is down why do people hurt animals they can ruin the food chain even worse these animals will go excint and i would hate seeing that they are very beautiful creatures...

Diane Patrick
Community Member
1 month ago

So cruel! Poor hyena should be free.

boredpanDaman
Community Member
1 month ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

yeah. lets start with humans first. i say all ex-colonial powers simply transfer all the wealth they took from africa to people in africa

Load More Replies...
Demon Deadly Dragon
Community Member
1 month ago

That poor hyena

Jill Tremblay
Community Member
1 month ago

wow, I had no idea how big hyenas are....

OpalTheRainwing
Community Member
1 month ago

Poor person and Hiyena

boredpanDaman
Community Member
1 month ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

poor you. that person is fighting for life after his wealth and dignity was (still is) taken away by... your people? but, screw people, let us worry about this cute litte hyena

Load More Replies...
Brian Dunphy
Community Member
1 month ago

Just looks like a spotted hyena with a muzzle to me.Something you don't see every day

Joan Brocklehurst
Community Member
1 month ago

Such a big chain, so cruel. These animals should be free to roam, not made to entertain.

Ruth Kara
Community Member
1 month ago

This is cruel....

Debi Nikita
Community Member
1 month ago

Vile... poor animal.

sam thecat
Community Member
1 month ago

Animals aren’t born to “perform” for humans. This is abhorrent.

Sarra R
Community Member
1 month ago

I.... Had no idea just how big hyenas are. I thought they were the size of a larger small doggo. My God. Can you imagine coming across 5 or 6 of them??

Amanda Hunter
Community Member
1 month ago

How awful, what does he gain from doing this?

Tantalum_Radium
Community Member
1 month ago

Money and therefore food

Load More Replies...
Samantha Comerford
Community Member
1 month ago

This makes me so sad. Not for him, for that poor animal .

boredpanDaman
Community Member
1 month ago

...there is smth seriously wrong with that

Load More Replies...
Carole Deem
Community Member
1 month ago

What does he do with the hyena?

Jamie Smith
Community Member
1 month ago

Travel and perform with them, kind of like a street carnival.

Load More Replies...
Lynn Morello
Community Member
1 month ago

Centuries ago Humans Tamed Wolves in much the same way.

Tantalum_Radium
Community Member
1 month ago

Err you know he’s still human right?

Load More Replies...
Cheryl Fontaine
Community Member
1 month ago

Ah, another so-called "man" who thinks to conquer and control something more beautiful than he will ever be makes him a man.... he's deluded.. I despise people like him.

Estelle Winwoode
Community Member
1 month ago

Maybe you could help fund an alternate lifestyle?

Load More Replies...
Cheryl Fontaine
Community Member
1 month ago

ah yes, so many men who think to conquer and control something bigger, brighter, and more beautiful than they are or ever will be makes them men. Jokes on them.

Estelle Winwoode
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

They probably just think it puts food on the table. If they have a table...

Load More Replies...
View More Replies...
View more comments

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

View More Replies...
View more comments
#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.

View More Replies...
View more comments

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

View More Replies...
View more comments
#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

View More Replies...
View more comments

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

View more comments
#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

View more comments

"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

View more comments
#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

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

Not a good way to advertise cheese.

View more comments

"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?)

View More Replies...
View more comments
#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!

View more comments

"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

View more comments
#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.....

View More Replies...
View more comments

"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,

View More Replies...
View more comments
See Also on Bored Panda
#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.

View More Replies...
View more comments

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!!

View More Replies...
View more comments
#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

View More Replies...
View more comments

"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.

View More Replies...
View more comments
#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

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

is it weird that this made my day?

View More Replies...
View more comments

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

Talie Bocci
Community Member
1 month ago

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

View More Replies...
View more comments
#23

South Africa, 2015, "1994"

South Africa, 2015, "1994"

Pieter Hugo Report

Omar Pearson
Community Member
1 month ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

Error: 404

View More Replies...
View more comments
#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.

View more comments
#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

View More Replies...
View more comments
#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.

View More Replies...
View more comments
See Also on Bored Panda
#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.

View more comments
#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.

View More Replies...
View more comments
#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.

View more comments
#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.