Famed Malian photographer Malick Sidibé has died at the age of 80. His textured black and white photos were a celebrated view into African culture, fashion and club nightlife of the 1960s and beyond.

Advertisement

Sidibé, according to The Guardian, was born in either 1935 or 1936—he couldn’t recall—and as a young man in 1952 he won a spot at Bamako’s École des Artisans Soudanais, later called the National Institute of Arts. He got his photographic start as an apprentice to Gérard Guillat and by 1962 he opened his own studio called “the Eye of Bamako,” buoyed by the popularity of his party photos.

Over the years, Sidibé shot “tens of thousands” of images and his work was exhibited around the world. It had a more specific impact on mainstream pop culture, too: in 1997, video director Mark Romanek was presumed to have been inspired by Sidibé while developing the clip for Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone.” The video, below, depicts an African party, portrait shots and folks dancing and reading vintage Drum magazines in earth tones. (In 2013, Romanek told EW that it was meant to be a “pre-Apartheid celebration based on that African photography” he saw in Drum.) It’s one of Janet’s best videos, and deeply indebted to Sidibé’s iconic work.

In 2007, Sidibe was awarded the Golden Lion lifetime achievement award at the Venice Biennale, making him the first photographer and African to do so. When he was asked what makes a great artist, he said:

… a good photographer needed the “talent to observe, and to know what you want” but also to be sympathique, or friendly. “I believe with my heart and soul in the power of the image, but you also have to be sociable. I’m lucky. It’s in my nature,” he said. “It’s a world, someone’s face. When I capture it, I see the future of the world.”

Sidibe’s work is currently on exhibit at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York; earlier this week, the Times wrote about how even his recent work was groundbreaking:

Advertisement

...[his] most recent series, “Vue de Dos,” depicts women with bare backs and views of the shoulder suggesting a concealed, sensual beauty rather than something explicit.

Mr. Sidibé resists exhibiting this work, which has been considered risqué, in his native, predominantly Muslim country, where revealing parts of the body is taboo. The series experiments with an artistic variation of the female nude, the goddess as a voluptuous muse, in his singular, powerful style.

Sidibe’s passing was confirmed by his nephew Oumar Sidibé on Friday. The legend had been fighting an undisclosed illness for some time.


Image via AP