African Photography: Street Photography, Part 1

African Photography: Street Photography, Part 1

Posted in Photography

With independence in the 1960s, several African photographers went out of the restriction imposed by colonization. A new generation of street photographers emerged, helped by new techniques and photographic formats. Even some studio portraitists went out and captured people celebrating, as if they felt the importance to preserve the memory.

Everyone experienced those moments differently. At night, some photographers showed people having fun in bars and restaurants. While others captured people manifesting their joy in the streets. Young people were particularly fond of being photographed. In fact, Africans were gradually forging a new image that looked more like them.

Malick Sidibé

Malick Sidibé was born in 1936 in Soloba, Mali. In 1952, he joined the School of Sudanese Craftsmen in Bamako, where he graduated in jewelry making. Then he was approached by a French photographer who taught him photography and delegated some reporting work to him. In 1956, he bought his first camera, and in 1958 opened his own studio in Bamako. There was a cultural change right after the independence of Mali in 1960, with young people discovering Western music and dancing in nightclubs or on the street. Taking advantage of his lighter camera, Sidibé photographed people, often youth, caught in surprise snapshots or posing leisurely. He captured candid images in the streets, nightclubs, on the beach, at concerts and sporting events, and ran a formal portrait studio. Sidibé was discovered at the first edition of Bamako Encounters in 1994. Since then, his work has been exhibited extensively in Paris, London, and New York, and is part of several public and private collections. He received various awards including the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2007 Venice Biennale.

Christmas Eve by Malick Sidibe

Jean Depara

Jean Depara was born in 1928 in Kbokiolo, Angola. In 1950, he bought a camera to register his wedding, and moved to Leopoldville – now Kinshasa where he never stopped taking photos. Kinshasa was then the epicenter of African music. Depara befriended several musicians especially Franco, the rising star of rumba, who appointed him as his official photographer. During two decades, he went through the city at night to capture the atmosphere of bars, dance halls and clubs, as well as bands of fashion victims. He also went to entertainment places where he shot pictures of athletes and joyful people of a city in transition. While keeping up his night work, Depara took portrait of several residents during the day in his studio until 1956. In 1975, he became the official photographer attached to the Parliament until his retirement in 1989. He died eight years later in Kinshasa, leaving more than 5,000 pictures untitled, depicting an exciting and carefree time when Kinshasa was the vibrant heart of Africa.

Couple in Kinshasa by Jean Depara

Philippe Koudjina

Philippe Koudjina was born in 1939 in Cotonou, Benin, where he learned photography by attending a studio in his neighborhood, and quickly discovered a passion that will bear fruit a few years later. In 1959, he moved to Niamey, Niger, where he decided to practise the photography to the exclusion of all else from 1963 onwards. Following the independence of Niger in 1960, young people came out each evening to celebrate a new era. Koudjina spent his nights by taking snapshots of people dancing at nightclubs or drinking in bars and restaurants. He often captured celebrities visiting the country or giving concerts. In the same way, he caught thousands of passing faces and made a good living. In 1972, Koudjina opened his studio to leverage on his success and took formal portraits of locals. Sadly, he was forced to close his studio a few years later due to the introduction of colour photography and the growth of a tough competition. Before his death last year, he went through several financial difficulties that followed a car accident and glaucoma.

After Nightclub by Philippe Koudjina

Billy Monk

Billy Monk was presumably born in 1937 in Cape Town, South Africa. He worked as a bouncer for a nightclub in the 1960s, during the years of apartheid. Using a 35mm lens on a Pentax camera, Monk took pictures of the nightclub regulars and sold the prints to them. Being close to most of the nightclub revellers, he managed to photograph them with a surprising intimacy by showing their different emotions. His representation of nightlife seems carefree and contrasts with the rigidity of apartheid, which persisted during that time. In 1969, Monk stopped taking pictures at the club and later moved to Port Nolloth. A decade later, Jac de Villiers – a Cape Town-based photographer discovered his work in a studio that he had recently moved into. In 1982, he organized an exhibition in Johannesburg to showcase the work of Monk. Sadly, Monk failed to participate at the event as he was tragically shot dead in a fight, en route to attend the exhibition.

Catacombs Nigthclub by Billy Monk


Posted in Photography  |  April 25, 2015