Juhan Kuus

08.02.24 > 13.04.24

Bonne Espérance exhibits for the first time in Paris works by the exceptional and controversial South African photographer Juhan Kuus (1953-2015).

Kuus dropped out of school at the age of 17 and, with no formal training in photography, became a photo reporter. He gained a reputation for throwing himself into sometimes violent situations to get his photo. Kuus also gained a reputation for carrying a flask of whiskey and a gun whilst working, and for using the gun. He was rejected by many of his colleagues.

Kuus worked for SIPA Press and captured both the tragedy of South Africa during apartheid and scenes of daily life in the country. Kuus’s photos were published in some of the best-known publications around the world and he twice won the World Press Photo Award. A book of his photos was published in 1987 and banned in South Africa.

Throughout his career, Kuus aimed his camera at the poor, gangsters, the homeless, prisoners and outcasts. And in some ways, he was one of them. At the end of his life, Kuus was living in a homeless shelter in Cape Town but still taking photos. Kuus died in 2015 after a fall down the stairs of the shelter where he was living.

Bonne Espérance Gallery presents 50 photos by Kuus, spanning almost his entire career.

This exhibit is a collaboration with the South African Photographic Archival & Preservation Association (PAPA) founded by Gavin Furlonger. PAPA’s objective is to preserve endangered South African black and white photography of historical significance. Kuus was discovered in 2002 by Furlonger at a time when the artist had reached almost complete obscurity and had lost the will to continue taking photos. Over the next 10 years, Furlonger encouraged Kuus, acted as the custodian of his collection, supported him financially and at times, kept him off the street and alive. It is thanks to PAPA and Furlonger that Kuus’s photographic archive still exists. According to Furlonger, “Juhan’s work remains a unique testimony to his unerring and steadfast commitment to his fearless approach to any situation no matter how life threatening or dangerous.”