Juhan Kuus (1953–2015) was a world-renowned documentary photographer of Estonian origin, living and working in South Africa. His pictures and photographic essays were extremely influential in their ability to inspire social and political action in the environments they depicted and studied.
He started working as a photojournalist at the age of seventeen and over a forty-five-year career he has grown to become one of the most influential and radical photographers in his country. At the height of his career, from 1986 to 2000, he worked as a correspondent and photojournalist in South Africa for the Paris and New York bureaus of the prestigious Sipa Press Agency, founded in France in 1973. His work has been regularly published in the Times, the Independent, the New York Times, Paris Match and the Los Angeles Times, among others. His photographs captured the fighting and brutal violence of the conflicts in his country, which attracted worldwide press attention during those years, but also the joys and sorrows of ordinary people, their daily lives and traditions, the relationship between man and earth, and prevailing social norms and taboos.
He commented that his own work, which takes a cultural anthropological approach that: ‘I tell my compatriots: This is you unrestrained; this is how I see you.’ Throughout his life, Kuus has hoped that his work would inspire and influence people not only in his native South Africa, but also in his original home country of Estonia, to take up documentary photography and to seek solutions and change to the problems presented through his images.
After his death, his personal archive of photographs was eventually preserved in Estonia, as he wished, and his oeuvre is now in the care of the Juhan Kuusi Dokfoto Keskus (Juhan Kuus Documentary Photography Centre) in Tallinn. The comprehensive exhibition at Mai Manó House brings the photographer’s work to the Hungarian public for the first time.