Malick Sidibe is another photographer from Mali that is a generation behind Seydou Keita. Similar to Keita, Sidibe is known for his portraits of young men and women of the 1960s. He also documented the lives of Malian youth at special events and parties. Looking through his photos, one can sense the youthful pride and fun captured in the photographs. He was also a studio photographer, and he enjoyed using the studio as a way to pretend and create new lives for his subjects. When talking about his studio portraits he states in an interview:
As a rule, when I was working in the studio, I did a lot of the positioning. As I have a background in drawing, I was able to set up certain positions in my portraits. I didn’t want my subjects to look like mummies. I would give them positions that brought something alive in them.
When you look at my photos, you are seeing a photo that seems to move before your eyes. Those are the sort of poses I gave them. Not poses that were inert or lifeless. No. People who have life need to be positioned that way. It was quite different at my studio. It was like a place of make-believe. People would pretend to be riding motorbikes, racing against each other. It was not like that at the other studios. That’s why my studio was so popular, already by 1964, 1965. The studio was a lot more laid back.
I just LOVE the personal styles that are presented in each portrait.
So pertaining to the title of this post–what does Malick Sidibe and Janet Jackson have in common? Remember her 1997 video for the song, “Got ’til It’s Gone”? This is one of my favorite videos of Janet due to the eccentric styles portrayed. As a child, it was hard to place where and when this video was supposed to take place. The fashion styles appears it is in the late 60s and 70s in South Africa during Apartheid. However, now that I recognize the works of Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita, I can see how the director, Mark Romanek, pays tribute to the two greatest photographers from Mali. All throughout the video, he appropriate the styles of portraiture from Keita and Sidibe. He even recreates some of their most famous photographs and if you look closely you can see the actual Polaroids of Malick Sidibe. I now love this video even more.