JUHAN KUUS (1953–2015)

Born in Cape Town on 27th of February in 1953 , the Republic of South Africa. His father, Harry Kuus, was an Estonian from Tartu, who escaped to South Africa after the Second World War. His mother, Elsa Barbara Maree, was a South African. Juhan had a sister Nicole and brother Michael. In 1976 he married Mareta du Plessis, divorced 2000. On 12th of July in 2015 he died after falling down a flight of stairs in the St Monica Shelter House in which he was living.


  • While in standard 7 (high school), dropped out to join the staff of the Cape Town newspaper Die Burger as a darkroom assistant/messenger/cleaner and junior photographer. After that he worked as a photographer for the newspapers Die Burger, Afrikaans Sunday national newspaper, Rapport, Die Beeld, The Rand Daily Mail, and The Sunday Times.
  • Worked for the Paris/New York picture agency Sipa Press as a South African correspondent and photojournalist. The Sunday Times fired him when they found out. Sipa Press terminated Juhan’s freelance contract after Nelson Mandela had stepped down as president of South Africa at the end of 1999, citing the fact that world interest had moved away from South Africa and South Africa was no longer a story.
  • Concentrated on concerned humanist/social documentary photography, with an emphasis on the growing gangsterism and crime, as well as the downtrodden.
  • Picture editor/photographer on the Cape Town NPO (non profit organisation) homeless people’s magazine The Big Issue.
  • Moved to the Western Cape province town of Oudtshoorn, working as a leather cutter, along with his father Harry Kuus. While in Oudtshoorn, he focused on the plight of the exploited farm worker.
  • Picture editor on the Cape Town daily newspaper, Die Burger.
  • Returned to freelancing.
  • Cooperation started with the gallery owner Gavin Furlonger, the founder of PAPA (the Photographic Archival and Preservation Association).


  • Vodacom Press Photographer of the Year, Western Cape province, South Africa.
  • World Press Photo 3rd prize, Daily Life category.
  • Grand Prix of the photo festival in Angers, France.
  • The South African Press Photographer of the Year, also winning several other awards in the same competition in the categories of news, features and picture stories.
  • Financial Mail J&B Young Achiever of the Year award.
  • Stellenbosch Farmers Wineries Award, Journalist of the Year, visual category.
  • World Press Photo 3rd prize, News Picture category.
  • The South African Press Photographer of the Year
  • In excess of 25 other local and international awards.


  • Personal exhibition in cooperation with IKKUN and Art Museum of Estonia – Adamson-Eric Museum. Adamson - Eric Museum, Tallinn, Estonia.
  • Personal exhibition, Gallery F, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Displayed his “Jesus Ladybird” series at an exhibition organized by PAPA at Kalk Bay Modern Art Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • The Perpignan Photo Festival (France) – three exhibitions.
  • The Angers exhibition, France.
  • An exhibition and images added to their permanent exhibition, Tufts University, Boston, USA.


  • Juhan Kuus. Inimlikkuse mõõt. 45 aastat dokumentaalfotograafiat Lõuna-Aafrikas. Tallinn: Art Museum of Estonia – Adamson-Eric Museum, 2016.
  • Peeter Linnap, Eesti fotograafia ajalugu 1839–2015. Tartu: Tartu Art College, 2016.
  • A photo by Juhan Kuus was published in the album 75 Years of Leica Photography, which covered the years 1914–1989. Leica Camera GmbH, 1990.
  • South Africa in Black and White, published by Harrap (London), was declared prohibited literature in South Africa. Juhan Kuus and Trevor McDonald. South Africa in Black and White. London: Harrap, 1987.
  • In addition to newspapers and journals all over the world, his photos have been published in several books.
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