Seydou Keïta, one of the greatest portrait photographers of the twentieth century, was born in Bamako, Mali, in 1921. He did not attend school and at the age of seven became an apprentice carpenter to his father and uncle who, in 1935, gave him his first camera, a little Kodak Brownie.
By 1939 he was already making a living as a self-taught photographer, and in 1948, opened his studio on the family plot in a bustling district of Bamako, not far from the station. Keïta recalls, “…my father gave me the land with the house behind the main prison. And that’s where I opened my studio. It’s a place where no one wanted to live because of the ‘spirits’ that threw stones in the night. Even today if you sleep in that house and you turn off the light a great gleaming white horse spirit might appear.”
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Photo: Seydou Keïta . Sans titre, 1956-1957. Tirage argentique moderne réalisé en 1998 sous la supervision de Seydou Keïta et signé par lui. 120 x 180 cm Genève, Contemporary African Art Collection. © Seydou Keïta / SKPEAC / photo courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Genève.