Seydou Keïta opened his first photo studio in Bamako, Mali’s main city in 1948, and very quickly it became highly successful among the Mali’s «highest society». Keïta was not just a simple photographer, but a sort of movie director, as he organised the environment and the models himself, borrowing the posh clothes, hats, accessories etc, in order to present his «clients» in their best appearance. This practice brought him lately to be the official photographer of Mali’s government.
Here we see the portrait of a white-dressed African man holding a baby. He is posing and his dress seems traditional of his culture. They are both smiling and they have a calm gaze. The setting and the background are not particular, but there are some details in the curtain behind the protagonists that suggest a traditional environment. In reality it was the artist’s studio! The traditional items were there on purpose!
The Fashion photography became a specific movement in international photography in the first decade of the 20th century. Vogue and Harper’s bazaar were leaders in this field throughout the 1920s and 1930s. House photographers, like Cecil Beaton transformed the genre into an outstanding art form becoming more and more popular with the development of the social media. Seydou Keïta might be considered as a pioneer of this movement on the African continent.
Seydou Keïta was rediscovered when African art became popular among the contemporary art world. But African influences were already present in many artists in the 20th century, like Picasso and Modigliani. Before the African artists could be appreciated, a sort of appropriation of African features was already present in Europe.
You can see more photos of him in the slideshow below!