Photografrika Project : Portraits of West African Photographers

Itʼs on West African roads, from 2013 to 2016, that Iʼve met them.

Hidden in their kitschy – sometimes messy- studios, they are seeking and waiting for rare clients.
Since digital photography and amateur ambulant photographers are taking more and more place in the profession, they were having economic difficulties, and their studios were on the way to decline.

Souvenirs of the past are forgotten in boxes or put in album, stocked in the old dusty darkroom. Old photographers like to tell me stories of the Golden Age, when photography wasnʼt an easy job to learn, with analogue camera and chemical products.

 

When studios were very popular places for the local population, where you couldnʼt hide what you were in front of the camera.

"We never had any photography training in our lives, we only learnt how to use our camera by ourselves, that's why our pictures don't look professional at all. When everyone will get his own camera, they won't need us anymore, as they might shoot even better than us. If we do not have any good training, we will disappear little by little and only laboratory will remain, for the customers." told me Mohamed, a photographer from Mauritania.

 

Feeling that I was between two pages of African photography history, I wanted to immortalize them with their third eye, inside their studios or outside, during wedding or ceremonies.
Pride, shyness, fun ... hidden behind their lenses, each photographer had his own way of reacting, to look at me, to hold the camera. That was a way for them to show the realities of their business and keep a track of an era almost over.

West African photography is playing hide & seek. On the one hand, it is hiding memories of the glorious time and on the other hand, itʼs looking for a new reason to exist and to recover from difficulties.

C'est sur les routes d'Afrique de l'Ouest, de 2013 à 2016 que je les ai rencontrés. Equipés pour la plupart de vieux argentiques des années 70/80, ces photographes connaissent des difficultés, à l’heure où le numérique prend le dessus. Sans formation solide, ils ont tout appris sur le terrain ou par le bouche à oreille, et le résultat sur leurs photos s’en ressent : image écrasée par le flash frontal, cadrage peu soigné, la mise au point qui n’est pas toujours au rendez- vous...

 

En Afrique il n’y a pas encore de culture artistique en photographie, ce que les gens veulent, c’est du souvenir. De plus, les coûts matériel augmentent (pellicules, frais de labos, location du studio...), et la population n’a pas toujours les moyens de payer, une fois les impressions terminées.

 

Que se passera-t-il quand toute la population sera équipée et sera à même de prendre des photos au rendu égal, voir supérieur à celles des photographes ?

Témoin de ce virage dans leur profession et me sentant entre deux pages de l'histoire de la photographie en Afrique, j’ai souhaité les immortaliser avec leur troisième œil, à l’intérieur des studios et sur le terrain. Pour ainsi témoigner des réalités de leur métier, et conserver une trace d’une époque presque révolue.

Adrien Tache | Photographe Indépendant © 2020 / Tous droits réservés