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“African creation and art has always been there. It is just that the world is at last becoming aware of our wealth and talented artists, be they musicians, painters, or photographers.” – Sanlé Sory
Burkinabe photographer Ibrahim Sanlé Sory captured the psyche of a generation through joyous, dreamlike images that brought ambitions and fantasies to life.
Born in 1943 in Nianiagara, Burkina Faso, Sory began his career in 1960, the year his nation was liberated from France. Moving to the city of Bobo-Dioulasso at 17, then the cultural capital of the country, he documented the transformation of his city and the collisions of tradition with the new possibilities of a postcolonial land.
He started his practice travelling the region by motorbike to photograph car wrecks, then on to taking ID photos and portraits. With the help of his musician and entrepreneur cousin, Idrissa Koné, Sory opened his photography studio, Volta Photo, in the mid-1960s. Embellishing the studio with backdrops and props like airplanes, beaches, radios, and plastic guns, Sory brought fantasies to life. It became the city’s finest photography studio, a place where he captured the excitement and anticipation of a generation. His images have a distinct frivolousness but carry a deep sincerity and brio. Sory speaks of Volta Photo as a place where people had “a chance to experiment, to escape their ordinary lives… They could look richer, more fashionable, or just more fun: it was just a way for them to feel good about themselves.”
Unsung and under-appreciated for too long, Sanlé Sory is finally recognised as one of photography’s most imaginative and iconic image makers, inspiring the likes of Wales Bonner and shown in galleries all over the world.