Photography – South African Pieter Hugo’s Hyena Men
I love photography’s ability to convey and explore lifestyles that the viewer normally doesn’t see. I came across Pieter Hugo’s Hyena Men series on Cool Hunting, but incidently also saw an exhibition of these photographs at the Museum of Marrakech two weeks ago.
From Cool Hunting:
Pieter Hugo is a South African photographer who has set out to photograph groups of people that have a distinct presence across Africa. His images of traditional healers, wild honey collectors, taxi washers, and albinos are strong and beautiful, but my favorite series is The Hyena Men which opened last week at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York.
Pieter Hugo created the series The Hyena Men while traveling throughout Nigeria with a troupe of animal charmers and their collection of tenuously domesticated hyenas, monkeys and snakes. The portraits feature groupings of men and animals surrounded by the barren urban centers of Northern Nigeria, which were taken during quiet moments between the spectacles of street performances.
These photographs can provoke many issues to do with spectacle, outcasts, co-dependence, fascination, economic survival and animal rights amongst others. I sometimes wonder, from our “developed” world vantage point, whether we have a right to question and judge the lifestyles of people who simply do not have our luxuries.
However, going back to the photographs themselves, the ethnic visual aesthetic is the appeal that draws me in. Sometimes, its as if the rawness of this mini community’s lifestyle is just inches from being unleashed, like the hyenas they harbour. Other times, moments of intimacy reveal themselves and remind us that irrespective of who we are, we all share the love of company.