|Photo: Pieter Hugo|
I think Pieter Hugo to be a brilliant photographer, so do a lot of other people. He is, no doubt one of the premier portraitists working today- so why do I still feel a bit queasy, a bit uneasy, even a bit guilty when I look at his work and find so much of it so... good. I was struggling to put it into words when I uhhh... came upon this, which I must say, pretty much explains exactly why I feel the way I do.
Kin, his latest work, seems his first earnest attempt to at least ask himself the very question he shrugged off before ever so dismissively. Everyone pretty much has a right to photograph whatever the hell they want; but if you put it out for public consumption then you should be willing to at least openly and responsibly present and discuss it- or not. And if not, particularly when highly offensive to certain groups of people... well then, it's up to you to deal with possibly being seen as an arrogant, insolent, insensitive prick. And when you refuse to validate and address legitimate concerns, it kinda makes one wonder about your intention and motivation.
Of course, those concerns are pretty much forgotten by most- if it ever was a concern. Some of us have longer memories however- not that Mr. Hugo is losing any sleep. And I long ago learned to separate "art" from the artist. Yes, I can even appreciate (and respect) works of beauty when funded by the very forces that actively destroy that very beauty. As for the person who creates it... I guess what we're talking about here is- trust. Do you trust the messenger, is he or she responsible with how they portray their subjects, and the way in which they can be used and/or interpreted? The latter is particularly tricky in our digital world (granted!), and was a major sticking point with Nollywood. Hugo once swore he wasn't responsible for how the world interpreted his work- neither do the people able to afford it. But perhaps his work is finally starting to reflect the gravity that question implies.
|Photo: Pieter Hugo|