Summer 2003

Portraiture from Mali [extract]

You look beautiful like that –

National Portrait Gallery, London
5 March-8 June 2003

Seydou Keïta began taking photos in the late 1940s, in the French colonial capital of Bamako, Mali. In the decades before and after Independence (1960), he was the official government photographer and a favourite of the African elite. His studio – the courtyard of his house – attracted government officials, civil servants and shop owners eager to exhibit their social status. He shot them with natural light, which lightened skin tones, against backdrops made from a sheet of fabric . . .

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