Oumar Ly is a trader’s son, born in 1943 in Podor on the banks of the Senegal river. He never learned to read. It was by chance, watching the soldiers installed in the fort take pictures that he discovered photography. Young Ly acquires his first camera, a Kodak Brownie flash for 1500 CFA. He trained with Demba Assane Sy, who worked alongside his nursing profession as a photographer.
Fate smiles upon him when Senegal, which has become independent, wants to provide people with identity papers. The administration hires him and sends him to roam the bush to take pictures of his fellow citizens. In 1963, the photo was in fashion. Customers flock to have their portrait taken at the Thioffy studio, located in the market district of Podor, then prosperous small trading town, bordering Mauritania.
Until his death in 2016, he will not leave his native region and his studio, After having photographed all the eras, the rich in boubous, families, young people in fashion Yéyé and even the public events that marked life from this remote province, north of Senegal.
Highlighted by the Marie-Louise & Fils association, the “Bush portraits” were brought together in an album published by Filigranes in 2009.
Omar Ly died in 2016 at 73 years old.
He leaves behind a large family and unique photographic archives, relating the lives of the inhabitants of Podor and the surrounding villages.
We discover a small world populated by faces of children and adults who posed in the studio, from the 1963s, in front of the painted canvases of a Boeing 747, a mosque, a lush landscape.
There are also – and what is more rare – thousands of pictures taken in the villages with only background, a loincloth, the white door of the 2CV of the sub-prefect or simply the pale sky crushed by the heat. In these images, we can guess, invited in secret, the landscape of the bush: dry land sparse with acacias; whipped by the harmattan. And above all, the uniqueness of each of the models who timidly, clumsily, offers itself for the first time to the lens of the photographer.
All these magnificent and moving portraits will forever remain the memory of Podor. Singularly elegant portraits, just images, just just and free. ”
Oumar Ly : Portraits de brousse et de studio – Podor 1963/1978
from January 16 to March 14, 2020
Regard Sud Galerie
1/3, r ue des Pierres Plantées 69001 Lyon