Bamako, Mali: and a tale of Malian photographer Malick Sidibé

I've been traveling to Mali for the last decade for my job in humanitarian aid, and I have been here for the last couple of weeks. It's a visual place and even before I had my first real camera, I admired the work of Malian photographer Malick Sidibe. 

Malick Sidibé was born in a small Malian village in 1935. Because of his gift for drawing, he enrolled in a school for crafts in Bamako, where he studied jewelry. This is where he met photographer Gerard Guillat, who hired him to help decorate photo sets in his photo studio.  Once the job was completed, Malick stayed on as Gerard's apprentice.

Malick bought his first camera in 1956, and in 1958 he opened his own photo studio in the heart of Bamako.

 Although he started with studio portraits, he soon added street photography to his repertoire and became a reporter. In the 60’s and 70’s Malick worked mainly in the growing club scene in Bamako. He also shot parties, soccer games, boxing matches, and all sorts of events. 

Malick’s photography studio itself became a hip hangout for Bamako’s youth.

 When I was in Bamako, I visited Malick's last exhibit at the French Cultural Center.  The exhibit was entitled, From the Back. It was predictably fantastic.

Malick Sidibé  is still shooting.  He is almost 80 years old.  I've always wanted to go and have him take my portrait.  Maybe when I feel sufficiently pretty one day, I'll do just that. Sidibe.

Information on Malick Sidibé on Lensculture.  All photographs by Malick Sidibé.

PS What about you?  What photographers do you admire?