Man vs. Wild: Pieter Hugo’s Incredible Photos of Hyena’s with Men

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Sometimes, however, what starts with a cool cellphone picture sent from a friend becomes an amazing, thought-provoking piece of photojournalism that probes the relationships between humans at the wild, humans and animals, and humans and each other. And I’m rarely stopped dead in my tracks when a photo crosses my field of view – but I was with these photos, with this body of work.

Pieter Hugo’s The Hyena and Other Men is a series of incredible photos, taken over two trips in as many years at the edges of a shantytown in Nigeria. Hugo worked with Nigerian reported Adetokunbo Abiola to not only find the men to photograph, but to get to know them and earn their trust.

The arresting images–which show men (and, occasionally, children) with hyenas, monkeys, and other wild animals which have been tamed for entertainment purposes–are an exploration of one tiny population’s life…a life that’s pretty different from yours or mine. Horrible or wonderful? That’s for you to decide. Scroll through some of the image tabs above this photo… Completely remarkable.

Here’s an excerpt from Hugo’s explanation of the project:

Seldom did anyone express strong concern for the well-being of the creatures. Europeans invariably only ask about the welfare of the animals but this question misses the point. Instead, perhaps, we could ask why these performers need to catch wild animals to make a living. Or why they are economically marginalised. Or why Nigeria, the world’s sixth largest exporter of oil, is in such a state of disarray.

Head over to Hugo’s site to see the rest and read his description of the artistic process. It’s a good read.

Hat-tip to my buddy Jon Coe for bringing this evocative project to my attention.

I am genuinely grateful to the holder of this site who has shared this great piece of writing at at this place.

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AfroTapp says:

Very interesting photos. Not very artsy but interesting. It is also interesting that most comments as mentioned in the blog only reference the animals rather than the colonial affects on animals, the people, and the land!

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Steve Miller says:

idiots. there is only one of each animal photographed. This is not some essay on the plight of domesticated hyenas, etc. This is one hyena.

In a country where the citizens do not deal with chronic obesity, balancing budgets, or whether birth control should be covered, taming ‘A’ hyena should almost be expected. Hanging our with an ape, sure.

I’m not saying there is not some potential tragedy here, but us living in ivory towers where we throw money at problems and our food is killing us (and we’re ok with that!), do not possess an understanding of the problems arising from having no money and lack of food kills thousands.

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Tim Roper says:

Almost as sad as dancing bears.

Trond says:

Love your site Chase, but for a photo site, the image-carousel has become unnecessarily awkward to use after the last site upgrade! Otherwise, this story was stunning in its familiar appearance yet amazing context!

faisal says:

Wow, very well captured. Not an easy job to do, trust me but needs good attention to detail.

RvF says:

Great images to tell a story. I’m totally in tune with Pieter comment; same old story of exploitation (1st world vs 3rld world/ human vs wild animals).
Thanks for sharing.

Ian Aitken says:

Really glad you have discovered this series of pics. They are simply stunning, I have been banging on about them ever since I came across them a few years ago. Now you have blogged about them they will reach a much wider audience, which they so deserve.
Not only is the subject matter extra ordinary (if you google Pieter, there are some amazing stories about the journey of getting the pics.). The pictures challenge and scream at all preconceptions of our interaction with wild animals. They are in short a striking graphic illustration of the craziness of what can happen in that great continent Africa and also the world, which we as western nations are so far removed from.
Nice Chase for getting them out there.


TroyK says:

I saw these pictures last year in November at Paris Photo and my first thought was “PhotoShop” but they are so real up close in a big print. I had no idea Hyenas were so big!

Rudi says:

these images are truly a mode of transport into another world which seems unreal to us in 1st world countries, but such a ridiculous reality for millions. In response to the quote on what questions should be asked such as why the country of Nigeria is in such disarray; I think it’s quite sad how corruption is able to cripple millions only to profit a few. an organisation in the UK is doing some great work at trying to get the EU to make sure that large corporations registered in Europe show the amounts paid to governments in these countries to ensure that the people of these countries have access to the information in order to have some hard evidence that more needs to be put back into the communities. If you’re interested, check out the campaign here –

Jason says:

They really are interesting photos. But if one attacked then I would have the same reaction as I do when one of those elephants flips and decides that they are tired of being chained and performing silly tricks.

George says:

After listening to this

i also searched for Hugo’s work because of the cover.

Very impressive!

Travis Alex says:

I have seen Pieter Hugo’s work hanging around Boston Fine Art Galleries…the prints are large and very breathe taking to look at, plus the content photos are gorgeous.

Barron Roth says:

I’m curious, which galleries exactly? I’ve recently moved to Boston and I’d love to see this in person.

These are wild creatures how come they don`t take a bite of their “owner”?

So stunnning how much do theys wild dogs wheigh?

Steve says:

They are hand reared so become use to humans – which in the end can be dangerous as you said they are wild animals and nothing stopping them one day turning on the owner,

They weigh about 50 – 65Kg on average, their jaws are measured at a bone crushing 11,000 Pounds/per sq inch

Dick Berry says:

You need to drop about 10,000 pounds per sq. in. on the hyenas bite…..they come in around 1000 lbs. per sq. inch.

They don’t bite their owners because they live in chains and muzzles. These photos are tragic.

I agree, it’s probably some sort of a display of manhood to try to domesticate these animals. Yet another sad victory for man against nature…..

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