Guy Tillim’s Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi, Kenya, 8 May 2017. Photo: Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation

Guy Tillim Wins 2017 HCB Award

On June 20, South African photographer Guy Tillim was named the winner of the 2017 HCB Award, presented by the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris, for his “Museum of the Revolution” project, which documents residual signs of revolution and colonialism across cities in Africa. He will receive $40,000 in support of his proposal, and will use the funds to photograph the streets of Dakar, Accra, Kampala, and Lagos.

“The history of colonialism is especially apparent in the streets and the avenues, which were often arranged at the whims of colonial power and then renamed after the countries gained independence,” Tillim said. “This paradigm—that of post-colonial societies imitating certain aspects of colonial regimes—is not unique in Africa: it is the law of history. However, the hopes and aspirations of recent generations who do not have a colonial past provide opportunities for societies to overcome the mistakes of the past.”

Born in Johannesburg in 1962, Tillim started working in photography in 1986 and was a member of the Afrapix collective until 1990. During apartheid, in the late 1980s, Tillim served as a freelance photographer for local and foreign press. Tillim’s works have been presented at the Photographic Center of Ile-de-France, Paris; the Huis Marseille Museum of Photography, Amsterdam; the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation; the Museu Serralves, Porto; FOAM_Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam; and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.

In a review of Tillim’s 2009 exhibition at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum on, Leora Maltz-Leca writes: “Scraping away at the stereotypes of the postcolonial African city, Tillim mines the cryptic silence of peeling time to pose questions about the assumptions we make about blown-out windows, empty offices, and fallen monuments: Whether these abandoned structures gesture to the dissolution of the African city or a local rejection of the colonial past and its architecture; whether they reveal the failed utopianism of Lumumba’s generation or a cyclic repetition of the violent histories he sought to overcome, all remains uncomfortably ambiguous.”

The HCB Award jury comprised Clément Chéroux, the director of the department of photography at SF MoMA; Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of Hermès; Lorenza Bravetta, an adviser to Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini; Florian Ebner, the director of the office of photography at the Center Pompidou; Nathalie Giraudeau, the director of Ile de France Photography Center in Paris; Thyago Nogueira, the director of the department of contemporary photography at Instituto Moreira Salles and publisher of ZUM magazine in São Paulo; and Agnès Sire, director of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation.