Billy Monk

Estate of Billy Monk


Billy Monk's photographs are included on The Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life which opened at the International Center of Photography, New York, in 2012 and travels to the Haus der Kunst, Munich (15 February - 26 May 2013). They are also included on South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 1 December 2012 to 5 March 2013.





Billy Monk was born in 1937, and worked as a nightclub bouncer for the Catacombs Club in Cape Town in the late 1960s. Using a Pentax camera with 35mm lens, Monk photographed the nightclub revellers and sold the prints to his subjects. His close friendships with many of the people in the images allowed him to photograph them with extraordinary intimacy in all their states of joy and sadness. His images of nightlife seem carefree and far away from the scars and segregation of apartheid that fractured this society in the daylight.

In 1969 Monk stopped taking photographs at the club. Ten years later his contact sheets and negatives were discovered in a studio by Jac de Villiers who recognised the significance of his work. He arranged a first exhibition of the work in 1982 at the Market Gallery in Johannesburg. Monk could not make the opening and two weeks later, en route to seeing the exhibition, he was tragically shot dead in a fight. In 2010/11 De Villiers revisited Monk's contact sheets and curated an exhibition at Stevenson and a book of the classic images along with some that had not been shown before.

A selection of Monk's images was included on the 2010 Brighton Photo Biennial curated by Martin Parr.