25 June 2009

Malick Sidibé

Christmas Eve, 1963. Photograph © Malick Sidibé

According to this report in Agence France-Presse, Malian photographer Malick Sidibé has received the top prize at this year's PhotoEspana. Sidibé has won numerous awards and prizes
and is perhaps best known for his portraits. I think his work too is a standing counterexample to those who insist on forcing discussion of African photographers (and of photography about Africa more generally) into the dichotomy of optimism and pessimism. Where does
Sidibé's work, created over the course of several decades, fit?

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Blogger chuckling said...

Too many of these conversations are based on the presumption that Africa is a hellhole in which everyone is a victim of war and/or starvation. It follows that all photography must be some kind of editorial comment on that presumption. But there is no such thing as "Africa," or even "Mali." There are deserts and jungles and peoples of different classes living in different countries, cities, and rural areas. I've been near Mali and Sidibé's photo admirably represents one of the realities I have seen. If a photo can say anything at all (which I agree, it can but don't think it must), it is likely to tell us about a specific class in a specific region or locale.

Well, maybe not always. The depth of a photograph's meaning can depend on who's looking at it. I guess Sidibé's Christmas Eve photo could tell someone who makes the hellhole presumption that there is much more to Africa than war and famine.

Was any of that Sidibé's intention? I doubt it. Does his intention matter? To some extent, sure. But overall no, no it doesn't. The photograph exists as a thing apart from the one who captured it.

28 June, 2009 13:14  

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