In the twentieth century, photography became a medium of expression that African artists began to draw upon to reflect on the world around them. One of the exceptional talents to emerge in this area has been the Malian photographer Seydou Keita (ca. 1921–2001), whose work has been admired on an international scale. Keita's oeuvre consists of portraits that chronicle Malian life during the mid-twentieth century. His portraits are renowned for not only their masterful formal composition, but also their ability to capture the nuances of this important transitional period in Malian history.
Seydou Keita, a self-taught photographer who opened his first studio in 1948 behind the prison in Bamako, Mali. He soon photographed all of Bamako and his portraits gained a reputation for excellence throughout West Africa. His numerous clients were drawn by the quality of his photos and his great sense of aesthetics. Many were young men, dressed in European style clothing. Some customers brought in items they wanted to be photographed with but Keita also had a choice of European clothing and accessories - watches, pens, radios, scooter, etc. - which he put at their disposal in his studio. The women came in flowing robes often covering their legs and their throats, only beginning to wear Western outfits in the late 1960s.
Keïta is now universally recognized as the father of African photography and considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. And here are some of his amazing work from between 1940s and 1960s.
(All photos copyright © Seydou Keïta Photography, via vintag.es)