Prudence Magagula

Prudence Magagula

Latitudes presents a never-before-seen selection of portraits by Billy Monk, Cape Town’s almost mythical 1960s photographer

Billy Monk worked as a bouncer in 1960s Cape Town. Armed with a camera, he also managed to photograph inside the club, The Catacombs. Housing revellers of all creeds and colours, this dockside spot illustrated both forms of the word 'underground'. His access to this cross-section of society allowed him to photograph scenes of uncensored joy, passion and debauchery not often associated with apartheid-era South Africa.

A decade later, Paul Gordon, who had once shared a studio space with Monk, handed the meticulously labelled negatives to photographer Jac de Villiers. Intrigued by what he saw and with David Goldblatt on board too, an exhibition was staged at The Market Gallery in Johannesburg in 1982, with Monk's blessing. The show was a critical success and Billy Monk took leave from his job as a diamond diver in the north of the country's shoreline, to attend. A pit-stop in Cape Town along the way, however, proved to be the full stop in Monk's story. He was shot dead in a drunken argument. His photographs, though, live on and continue to give the world a rare glimpse into this period in Cape Town's history. The story of Billy Monk and his short life, well-lived, has become somewhat of a myth over the decades.

The UNSEEN Selection will be available exclusively on Latitudes. The works are available in two sizes each and are a limited edition of 12. 

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