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A Galerie : Focus on Sory Sanlé


A. galerie and its owner Arnaud Adida present a selection of photographs by Sory Sanlé.

Born in 1943 in Nianiagara, Burkina Faso, Ibrahima Sory Sanlé lives and works in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. He began his career as a photographer in Bobo-Dioulasso the same year his country became independent from France in 1960 as the Republic of Upper Volta. As a young apprentice working with a Ghanaian chef, he learned to work in a photographic chamber before processing and printing his own images. Like many African photographers of his generation, he chose the 6×6 format. He had the privilege of following the rapid evolution of his own city, Bobo-Dioulasso, then the cultural and economic capital of Upper Volta. He captured the clash between modern life and centuries-old traditions of this culturally rich and rural region.

He began his career documenting wrecks on highways in and around Bobo, traveling by motorcycle throughout the region. In the mid-1960s he opened his own Volta Photo studio, which would soon become the best photo studio in town. Entirely devoted to his art and his work, he followed his own rule: “the more you love something, the more you invest yourself in its passion”.

He worked as a journalist, record cover illustrator, official photographer but above all as a smart studio photographer. Very active, he portrayed the people of Bobo-Dioulasso with great spirit, energy and passion. His background paintings, whether of a modern city, a promenade on the beach, an airplane or an ancient column, were quite exceptional and unlike those of any other photographer from his country.

Whether motionless or mischievously moving, his subjects illustrate in many ways the remoteness and melancholy of African cities landlocked in the heart of the continent. They also evoke a youthful exuberance after the first decades of African independence. his lens reviews with intelligence the natural fusion between tradition and modernity. His black and white images truly magnified this golden age before the 24×36 format and common color films added to what William Eggleston called the “democratic forest”, an endless dilution of  photographic images in public space. .

Unknown, forgotten or misunderstood, the golden age of Voltaic photography is fully embodied by Sory Sanlé, whose images, preserved for many decades, testify to a unique social and cultural effervescence. Adorned with a certain natural elegance, his photographs of Bobo-Dioulasso echo Renoir’s words what is “the most local is the most universal”.


4, rue Léonce Reynaud
75116 Paris / France

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