Inside the Studio of Adama Kouyaté
In what is coined the “African city of photography”, Adama Kouyaté developed the talent of capturing his subjects by working under masters, then becoming a master himself. His catalog has been archived among others that contributed to the early photographic scene of black and white portraits for us to enjoy and appreciate now.
Kouyaté started his photographic career as an apprentice for masters such as Bakary Doumbia and Pierre Garnier. In 1949 he founded his very own studio in the village of Kati, not far from Bamako. After ten years of earning his own income from mainly making studio- and wedding portraits, the young photographer left Mali for Ouagadougou and Bouaké in Ivory Coast. It was only after 1969 that he decided to return to a village north of Bamako to continue his photographic studio business.
This is in the series Because of Them, a collection of
photographers that serve as forefathers/mothers
that made way for and inspire us today.
Kouyaté’s black and white portraits reproduce the Malian urban lifestyle in his studio, by attracting groups of youngsters, couples, and women of Bamako in the late sixties and seventies. People who did not possess a camera, came to the studio to capture important moments of their lives, or simply to keep a trace of it. His studio (which was basically a small storage space) was equipped with only two studio lights and simple backgrounds, sometimes with painted palm trees on it. By laying out accessories such as radios, LPs, watches, cigarettes, or letting his customers pose on a scooter, the photographer created an artificial stage referring to modern, forward-looking life.
All visuals © Adama Kouyaté