The South African photographer surfaces the volatile conditions of this particularly strange dumping ground, formally called Agbogbloshie. In turning the pages of “Permanent Error,” the seemingly post-apocalyptic aesthetic qualities of Agbogbloshie, a vast space where humanity and cattle alike are disbursed, working on a flat, mundane setting, become distinctly real. The burning of computer monitors, televisions, piles of tangled wiring and VHS tapes are scenes most commonplace at Agbogbloshie.
Hugo’s book captures the tension between the West and its obsession with technological development and what circumstances that places on the lifestyles and welfare of people in developing countries. It not only documents yet another instance of disempowered people living and working under conditions forced upon them by Western development, but the materials they are dealing with are themselves blatant products of Western obsession with technology and continuous excess. The result is that the two subject matters dealt with in Hugos photographs, both the people and the waste items within Agbogbloshie, work together to create a provocative statement.
Hugos' photographs show the contrast between the normalcy of the people of Agbogbloshie and their involuntarily bizarre environment. His work is focused on the humanity of the people as much as the wasteland.
When asked if this body of work is most rooted in artistic integrity, journalism or activism, Hugo indicated in an email exchange that it sits somewhere in the middle of these three intents, reflective of the dynamic style he has become known for in previous publications, such as “The Hyena and Other Men.”
Hugo is making a clear statement with “Permanent Error”: there are inhumane environments that exist, being forced upon people by economic and cultural trends throughout the world. Hugo hopes this book will spark debate and change about the condition of Agbogbloshie, which breaks numerous laws. Until that action takes place, “Permanent Error” will stand on its own, bringing awareness to the inhumanity and injustice that exists in Agbogbloshie.
This body of work is on display at Yossi Milo Gallery, a photography-specific gallery at 525 W. 25 St., through October 29.