martedì 17 giugno 2008


Seydou Keïta was one of the most celebrated West African photographers.
From his studio in the centre of Bamako, Mali, located behind the prison, Keïta took about 20,000 portraits between 1949 and 1963. He was a self-taught photographer, first experimenting with a Kodak Brownie camera, but quickly switching to medium and large-format cameras for their sharpness and clarity. His vibrantly patterned backdrops were all locally sourced cloths – the first of these was actually his own bedspread. Keïta also developed the angled portrait, a composition which emboldens the sitter and increases the dynamism of the overall image.
‘A photograph is a souvenir, a work of art, and a document’, Keïta said. At the peak of his career, hundreds of people queued outside his studio every day. Clients wanted to ‘dress up’ for their portraits and often brought precious objects or favourite items of clothing with them. They also frequently borrowed from Keïta’s in-house selection of dresses, suits, uniforms and jewellery. As many of these items repeat from picture to picture, it is difficult to make assumptions about a sitter’s occupation, wealth or personal interests.
The photographs on display here are on loan from the Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC), Geneva, which was founded in 1989 by Jean Pigozzi and curated from the beginning by André Magnin. The largest private collection of its kind, the CAAC has helped many African artists to show their work in major institutions around the world.
Seydou Keïta (1921-2001) was born in Bamako, Mali, where he lived and worked.
Curated by Cliff Lauson with the advice of André Magnin, Curator, CAAC.
This display has been made possible by the generous support of the Contemporary African Art Collection and Jean Pigozzi.

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