Seydou Keïta at the Grand Palais
Seydou Keïta was born around 1921 in Bamako (the then-capital of French Sudan).
He did not attend school, and by the age of 7, became an apprentice carpenter under his father and uncle, who in 1935 gave him his first camera, a small Kodak Brownie. In 1939, he was already earning a living as a self-taught photographer, and in 1948 opened his studio on the family grounds, in a very lively district of Bamako, near the train station.
Keïta specialises in the control portrait, individual or group, taken with a 13x18 lens in black and white, with a preference for natural light.
Most prints of the time, called "vintage", are contact prints, in negative format, which Keïta made himself.
Paper was expensive and hard to find. At the request of some wealthy clients, it was rare for him to be able to make prints in 30x40. More unusually, accessories, including jewellery, were coloured by the framer.
His work, which covers a relatively short period, offers unparalleled testimony of the changes to urban Malian society, which freed traditions, aspires towards a particular modernity, while decolonisation is at work and independence approaches.
Seydou Keita is considered today as one of the great photographers of the second half of the 20th Century, equal to the most famous portrait painters, like Richard Avedon or August Sander.
This exhibition is the first retrospective of this scale, and brings together an exceptional collection of nearly 300 photographs, including modern prints in black and white, sized 120x180 and 50x60, by Keita as well as unique prints from his time.
Grand Palais, Galeries Nationales
3, avenue du général Eisenhower