Here is a look at a new body of work from South African phorographer Pieter Hugo which includes a series of photographs that explores the multilayered reality of the Nigerian film industry.

Nollywood is, surprisingly, the third largest film industry in the world, releasing onto the market between 500 and 1 000 movies each year.

Nollywood produces movies on its own terms, telling stories that appeal to and reflect the lives of its public: it is a rare instance of self-representation in Africa. The continent has a rich tradition of story-telling that has been expressed abundantly through oral and written fiction, but has never been conveyed through the mass media before. Stars are local actors; plots confront the public with familiar situations of romance, comedy, witchcraft, bribery, prostitution. The narrative is overdramatic, deprived of happy endings, tragic. The aesthetic is loud, violent, excessive; nothing is said, everything is shouted.

Hugo has been increasingly intrigued, in his travels through West Africa, by this hyperactive industry, in constant production despite tight budgets and strict production schedules. Over time he compiled a list of the iconic images and scenes that had attracted his attention, and he imagined photographing in these settings.

His first attempt to photograph on film sets documenting these scenes failed to produce pictures that fully mirrored the intensity of the situations. He then decided to bring his interpretation of these staged realities into another realm by assembling a team of forty actors and assistants. He asked them to recreate the stereotypical myths and symbols that characterise Nollywood productions, reproducing the dynamic of movie sets.

The tableaux of the series confront us with a verisimilar world: the situations are clearly surreal but they could be real on a set; furthermore, they are rooted in the local symbolic imaginary. The boundaries between documentary and fiction become very fluid, and we are left wondering whether our perceptions of the real world are indeed real.”

Very compelling series of photography which includes well worth a look at, check out the images below.

Info: Boingboing, Michael Stevenson

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