We bring you the interview with Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer whose works are parts of prominent public and private collections such as Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, J Paul Getty Museum, Deutsche Börse Group, etc. Read what he declared for Ovmag about the importance of this year’s main festival theme New Citizens, and about whether he finds points of reference to this theme in his own work. We talked with the author about his work, his relationship with the audience and his series of photographs entitled “Kin”.
1. What would you stress as especially important in the context of the OV open call theme New Citizens?
Well, there seems to be a new political consciousness emerging. Some of it for good and some of it for worse. With governments and large companies such as Google having access to increasing amounts of our personal information, preferences, data, etc., the notion of being a citizen of a nation state becomes increasingly anachronistic.
2. Can you identify points of reference to this theme in your own work?
I’m not sure that it does really. Although I primarily have been working in Africa the last few years, Asia and the USA have also been covered in my personal work. I have a very ambivalent relationship with my nationalistic identity and with the notion of being a global citizen. Both seem like concepts which can be exploited for marketing and political purposes.
3. How do you find the themes and subjects you deal with in your work?
Mostly through the media. Keeping my eyes open.
4. The greatest number of your photographs are portraits, and your subjects often stare directly into the camera. How do you approach your subjects and how does your audience react to those direct stares?
I want my desire to look to be requited. I want to make portraits that hold your attention and do not give you space to escape. Some members of my audience appreciate this intensity. Others find it disconcerting.
5. Your series of photographs “Kin” is very different from the rest of your work. How is it that you decided to turn the camera your way and speak about the life in the South African Republic in the first person?
Well, this series started around the time my first child was born. I was very aware of the political situation in South Africa, which is very volatile and heavy. My eye kept turning to the place where I decided to drop an anchor- and I photographed elements of that which stood out to me.