Originally posted on Africa is a Country:
Is African studio photography, Cape Town art writer Sean O’Toole asks in frieze magazine, dying out? The answer, non-subscribers, is maybe. Everywhere in the modern world the business of professional photography is in decline. O’Tool argues that studio photography has suffered the economies of the ‘digital revolution’ and the rise of the mobile phone camera. According to him the easy publishing of social networking sites has dealt a death blow to the popular African institution.
Studio photography has been the medium of many of Africa’s most internationally renowned artists. Malick Sidibé’s (b. 1935) joyful shots of independent Mali, are celebrated in this year’s Paris Photo and the ninth biennale in his native Bamako. Similarly, the virtuosic monochrome portraits of Seydou Keïta (1921-2001) have gathered acclaim since his first exhibition in Paris in 1994. The two Malian photographers are often coupled together in indexes of African photography, but there is an critical distinction between their practices. Sidibé went onto the streets of Bamako, and used his talents for reportage. In 1962, two years after Independence, Keïta was nominated official photographer of the single-party socialist state. In a 2008 interview with lensculture, Sidibé spoke about Keïta: