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Seydou KeitaVery often the people involved in photography in their attempt to prove that they can be complex and clever end up being simplistic and stupid. On the contrary, those who do not strive to prove anything end up being more genuine, that is, more complex and cleverer.

It makes sense that all professional portrait-photographers wish to satisfy or even flatter their client, satisfying his every whim. The balance is endangered when, as is often the case, the photographer aims to satisfy his client while at the same time seeking his own personal artistic fame and establishment. Then, the attempt to turn the circle into a square lurks around the corner.

In the case of the professional Keita, who took photographs of his clients in his photo-lab near the Bamako train station in Africa, things were much simpler. Both he and his clients were saved by their innocence. And, at the same time, they met through it. He obviously believed that what he did had value and quality, since without this conviction art cannot blossom, but he sought neither artistic establishment nor fame. These undeniable virtues of his worked in his own and his client’s favour, since with this starting point it could not have been otherwise. He did not seek to balance opposing forces, namely the satisfaction of his ignorant but useful client and, on the other hand, the possibly more important to him promotion of himself – which usually ends up failing both expectations in accordance with the general rule of hitting two birds with one stone. Instead, Keita led the parallel desires, guided only by the simultaneous respect of the creator, the client and the photograph itself. As a result, his solutions are genuine, that is, true.

Innocence imposes honesty. And the latter says that in art everything is obvious prima facie. Thus, when one considers that the garment, the bag and the shoe are important, since the client’s innocence (and honesty) is to feel proud of them, one should serve this desire in an absolute way. Then, photographic innocence imposes a sitting pose that enhances the rippling and opulence of the cloth, the conspicuous position of the bag, and as a last resort, but ingenious in its simplicity, the solution of the surrealistic presentation of a single shoe.

Having made these choices, the rest of the image’s composition speaks for itself. Discreet, complementary and not contrapuntal. That is, the use of a fabric that accompanies the skirt’s main folds in a different tone. The originality of the composition could not afford a smile by the model, since then there would be a risk that the smile be interpreted as a comment on the composition and ultimately weaken it. The serious introspective gaze of the girl, directly facing the viewer, emphasizes (once again with innocence and honesty) how important this photograph is to her, while creating a dynamic counterweight to the monumental arrangement of the objects.

Seydou Keita, in this as well as in his other photographs, proves that artistic choices, always responsible for the quality of the artistic work, are the result of the true respect of the artistic intentions. And these in turn are required, in the case of photography, to respect what is in front of the lens and the nature of the photographic medium itself. Thus, the respect for the authenticity of what is proposed by the person behind the lens is also preserved.

Platon Rivellis