A Bouncer Who Took Photographs but Didn't Make It to His First Exhibition

Billy Monk was a bouncer in a club in Cape Town South Africa. It was in the 60s, during Apartheid, where certain rules regarding social dynamics were strongly enforced, and yet, here he was, documenting the people who freed themselves of these rules whenever inside this club called Catacombs. 

His photographs were well lit, with interesting compositions, as if he was perhaps trained to some degree. He was able to capture moments that passed by in split seconds, and yet even today, we are able to describe these certain times or thoughts when looking at these images.

He never saw himself as a photographer, and it was only because of another photographer who found his photographs in a cupboard as he was moving into Monk's old apartment that we even know of him. Monk was then based in Johannesburg, roughly 870 miles away. He was a bouncer of a club, so it's easy to imagine the underground dealings and powers that could influence decisions or events. When these images were put on display at an exhibition and he was making his way from Johannesburg to Cape Town, he was killed and never saw his first and final exhibition. 

My wife met his son by chance in a photo store in Cape Town. At that time, we didn't know who Billy Monk was. His son was able to inspire my wife with his dad's story so much that she brought the book home. Since then, I thought about how fortunate I was not to have to be a bouncer or that I am now living in a country free of apartheid. I also now think of how I also just wanted to shoot. I didn't see myself as a photographer at first. It was all about getting the shot. I think Monk had the same sensation and just felt the need to document his world, and if there is any advice here, it would be for you to do just that. 

The foreword of the book is written by the renowned David Goldblatt. You can get the book here

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1 Comment

Ted Mercede's picture

Very cool story, thanks for sharing this!
Sorry to hear the tragedy of it though, a shame.