Length of work: 53 years
Recent exhibitions/ awards/ etc.: Vénice Biennale’s Golden Lion 2007
ICP Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2008
Malick Sidibé opened his own studio in Bamako in 1958 and specialized in documentary photography. His work captures the energy of a generation of young Malians during two decades of momentous – and euphoric – social reformation.
After working as an apprentice for Bamako’s leading society photographer, Gerard Guillat, aka Gégé la pellicule (Gégé the Film), Sidibé soon begun covering weddings and christenings, and as he shot with a small camera, he also got invited to the dances. On the weekends Sidibé would cycle round to a handful of parties a night, heading back to the studio to develop as many as 400 photos. As his popularity grew, he was in constant demand from people wanting their portraits taken. In 1962, he left Gégé and opened Studio Malick. In time, Studio Malick became swollen with vibrant youth who patiently queued round the block, eager to have their picture taken by “The Eye of Bamako”, an endearing name he eventually earned.
Studio Malick prolifically produced stunning black and white images of Mali’s increasingly liberated ladies, who turned up at its doors flaunting their newly purchased peep toe heels, and gentleman, decked out in their new hats and trousers, straight from Saint-Germain des Prés. Women also strutted up wearing the most exuberant of African attire, and Malick’s camera loved them all and breathed even more life into the already lively prints. His images are full of pride and beauty and till today maintain an honest monochromatic ease, coalescing the superbity of fashion-photography with the sobriety of portraiture.