Turning urban decay into art and revealing beauty in Hillbrow


Central Johannesburg can be a dangerous place in the day time. At night it’s known to be a perilous hotbed for crime and menace. Yet this is where Leon Krige goes to find beauty. Alone and vulnerable, he braves Hillbrow’s streets at night to find something unexpected. As he reaches the top of a long flight of stairs and steps out into open air he finally blends into the background. Slowly, he focuses the lens of his camera on the cityscape below. Widening his aperture, he looks for traces of people and their stories in the vast city space.

An architect by training and teacher of the discipline by profession, Krige understands the Johannesburg buildings he sees and captures. He finds that the night gives him a different perspective on the city, fresh with colour, movement and sound that contrast with the day. His photographs show incandescent city scenes blazing with life, but within them Krige hopes to reveal the intimate narratives of people moving forward.

Through the process he discovers a delicate balance between fear and beauty. The people below have found homes, discovered peace and constructed safety in an ever-changing and dangerous environment. Krige uses images of the city engulfed in darkness to show that it hasn’t gone bad. That it hasn’t gone dark. That South Africa’s brightest lights shine in the people who call it home.