Several weeks back, randomly walking by this rare book seller in New York an image that I recall seeing before caught my eye. Stepping in, I asked to view the book that lay behind the glass case. The book, a first edition copy of Seydou Keïta by André Magnin (Ed.) published back in 1997, a rare find. I couldn’t believe what I had discovered and deemed it serendipitous that I happened to be passing by on said afternoon. Naturally, I couldn’t leave the bookstore without it and as such, I am happy to share a selection of these wonderful images featuring gentlemen of Bamako, Mali circa 1948 to 1962.
In the introduction to the book, Magnin explains that after discovering three unsigned images back in 1991 at an exhibition for traditional and contemporary art at the Center for African Art in New York, he made the journey to Mali to track down the talented portraitist . In the process he met Malick Sidibé, another Malian photographer now world renown, who happened to be the gentleman to identify the author of those images as Seydou Keïta.
At the time of their meeting, Keïta had already retired from photography though the two developed a mutual confidence. Keïta entrusted Magnin giving him access to his tens of thousands of negatives. At the time of publication in ’97, Magnin wrote that this collection represented the only available source of Keïta’s work. Magnin goes on to say that the talent of Keïta’s work lay in his keen ability to document with accuracy and without attempts at illusion. The result a rare work of beauty that not only documents Malian society but gives us a vantage point to see a different vision of Africans.
Born 1921, Bamako, Mali.
Began photography at the age of 14 years old after his uncle Tièmòkò offered him a German-made camera, a Kodak Brownie.
1948 sets up his studio at his house in Bamako-Koura.
1962 – 1977 Mali’s official photographer.
1991 Exhibition: “Africa Explores” at The Center for African Arts, New York.
1994 Exhibition: “Seydou Keïta, 1949 à 1962”, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris.
1995 Exhibition: Serpentine Gallery, London.
1996 “In/sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present”, Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Died 2001, Paris, France.
*Note the above exhibitions represent only a selection of some of the notable exhibitions Seydou Keïta participated in.
This past October 4, 2010 the official website for Seydou Keïta launched showcasing many wonderful never before published photos, It is definitely worth a visit and also offers a limited edition store offering 39 prints exclusively available only through the site.
Seydou Keïta” Livre monographique – 287 pages, 207 reproductions.
Published by SCALO in 1997, Edited by André Magnin.
All images by Seydou Keïta. Copyright © IPM 2010.
Where is Bamako, Mali?
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