Born in Burkina Faso in 1943, Sory Sanlé learnt the ropes of photography as an apprentice to a Ghanaian photographer, assisting the anonymous photographer with darkroom practices and printing. When Burkina Faso gained independence from French rule in 1960, Sanlé opened up his own studio in Bobo-Dioulasso and started to shoot the most stylish residents of the city in Upper Volta.
Sanlé's studio, ‘‘Volta Photo’’, became a hallmark for the archive of postcolonialism. He specialized in portraits, capturing the cultural crossroads of Malians, Fula villagers. He also encouraged and indulged his guests with their desires of modernity and leisure through extravagant props back then like telephones, motorbikes, backdrops of scenes like beaches, and skyscapes with airplanes to depict leisure and lavishness.
Volta Photo also captured the growing music scene of the 50's up to the 80's; many musicians flourishing from the Upper Volta area were deeply rooted from West African musical formations, influencing genres like the Cuban salsa, early rock n' roll or James Brown-style of funk. Sanlé and his Volta were able to visually record this musical revolution. From the rich, the poor, artists, musicians, and the devoutly religious — in Sanlé ’s studio, everyone was warmly welcomed.
Catch the show Volta Photo: Starring Sanlé Sory and the People of Bobo-Dioulasso in the Small but Musically Mighty Country of Burkina Faso at the Art Institute of Chicago, running through August 19 2018.
Images are from the press kit.