Seydou Keïta is perhaps the most celebrated African photographer. Born in 1921 in Bamako, French Sudan (now Mali), he was self-taught in photography and opened a studio in his home in 1948. He was quickly sought after by eager patrons from all classes and walks of life, who came to have their photo taken—an event considered of high personal importance. In the sittings, Keïta asked his subjects to show themselves just as they liked, as they wanted to be memorialized. Favorite costumes, valued possessions, and wonderfully self-styled postures and expressions show the subjects taking charge of their own image. Keïta closed his studio in 1963, when he was appointed to be the official Government photographer in Mali. He held his post until 1977, when he retired. His legacy was an amazing record of life in Bamako during the 1950s and 1960s. Mr. Keïta ta still lives in Mali today.
Among the major exhibitions devoted to Keïta's work are those mounted by the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris (1995), the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (1996), the Guggenheim Museum (1996) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1997). A large monograph on his work has just been published by Scalo Publishers, Zurich, and is now available in bookstores in the United States.
Each image in the Gagosian exhibition was printed under the personal supervision of Seydou Keïta and bears his signature, monogram, and the date of the image and the of the print. The photographic sheet sizes are 24 x 20 inches, and 74 x 50 inches.