Just opened at the end of Ladbroke Grove, a fantastic exhibition of 1960s-80s nightlife photography by West African photographer, Sanlé Sory.
Sory used to take portrait photos in his Burkina Faso (formerly Bobo-Dioulasso) studio, later scooting to local parties and dances as requested, to shoot partygoers in action. According to him, “if there’s music, you need to have memories. Photography tells the story.”
He would also photograph local jazz musicians, the results of which would end up on their record covers. A few years ago, French writer and music collector Florent Mazzoleni came across some of the records and intrigued by the photography decided to track down the photographer. Legend has it that when he arrived in his village, his enquiries led him to Sory in the midst of burning his negatives. He had no use for them, and not realising the value of an archive, was simply disposing of them as he saw fit. Mazzoleni persuaded Sory to pause and let him look through the negatives, soon realising he had rescued a trove of work that now serves as a valued chunk of cultural history.
Sory’s work is now being exhibited around the world and has recently been added to the museum collections of the V&A, MoMA and Minneapolis Institute of Art. The photos speak for themselves; I love the energy and style of all the subjects. There’s definitely a feel for escapism and nostalgia-tinged hedonism in my circles, jointly influenced by politics, age and the sheer love of partying. This exhibition is well-timed to chime with that mood.
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Sanlé Sory
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