It’s easy to take a photo, but what really made a difference was that I always knew how to find the right position, and I never was wrong. Their head slightly turned, a serious face, the position of the hands… I was capable of making someone look really good. The photos were always very good. That’s why I always say that it’s a real art stated Seydou Keita.
A native of Mali and a self-taught photographer experimented with his Kodak Brownie camera and captured many young men, dressed in European style clothing. The women came in flowing robes often covering their legs and their throats, only beginning to wear Western outfits in the late 60s. 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.
From his studio in the centre of Bamako, Mali, located behind the prison, Keïta took about 20,000 portraits between 1949 and 1963. 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.
Here are fashion in Mali through his eyes.