I will never stop kicking myself for not buying a Seydou Keita photograph when I had the chance. In my early 20's I was working at Gagosian Gallery when we hosted his first show in America in 1997. Mr Keita was still alive at the time, and he came to the opening. He was very old though, so he had to sit in a chair throughout the evening. I was completely in awe of him. His talent was so inspiring to me, and he was a looming character even in his frailty. The employees of the gallery were offered to buy a photograph at cost which came to $900. It was an absolute bargain but still too much for me to afford on a first-job-out-of-college salary. Still, I wish I had begged, borrowed and stolen in order to find a way to have it.
In addition to Malick Sidibé (see my last post), Mr Keita is my other favorite African photographer. His style is more decorative and ornate, but no less chic. I love how flowery and ruffle-y the ladies are (if you like a pattern mix you just can't resist these photos) in contrast to the more pared down and refined traditional clothes on the men. I also find the humble props so charming. A radio, a bicycle, a rickety chair, a sewing machine, or even just a flower add so much life and character to these portraits. They move me every time I look at them.