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Article contents

Photography in Sierra Leone, 1850–1918

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2011

Extract

In recent years scholars have shown considerable interest in the early use of photography by non-Western peoples. Research on nineteenth-century Indian, Japanese and Chinese photography has revealed a rich synthesis of European and Asian imagery. These early photographs show how non-Western peoples created new forms of artistic expression by adapting European technology and visual idioms for their own purposes. Because of the long history of contact between Sierra Leoneans and Europeans, Freetown seemed a logical starting point for similar photographic research in West Africa. The information presented here is based on ten years of searching for nineteenth-century photographs made by Sierra Leonean photographers. To locate these pictures, I have visited Freetonians and viewed their family portraits and photograph albums, interviewed contemporary photographers throughout Sierra Leone, and researched in the various colonial archives in England to locate photographs preserved from the period of colonial rule. I have discovered that a community of African photographers has worked in the city of Freetown since the very invention of photography. The article reviews the first phase of this unique photographic tradition, 1850–1918, and focuses on several of the African photographers who worked in Freetown during this period.

Résumé

La photographie au Sierra Leone, 1850–1918

Dès les années 1860, des studios de photographie de portraits furent établis par les habitants de Freetown au Sierra Leone. Ils utilisaient des technologies de pointe et les tout derniers styles de photographie. Il reste très peu de données biographiques sur ces premiers photographes de Freetown, ainsi que très peu sur leurs photographies. Cet article passe en revue tout ce que l'on connaît sur la période initiale de l'histoire de la photographie au Sierra Leone et place ces connaissances dans leur contexte technologique. Une sélection de treize photographies a été reproduite (avec titres détaillés), pour illustrer l'étendue des travaux effectués au cours de cette période et pour montrer les styles développés par certains des grands studios de Freetown.

Type
Ecology and technology
Copyright
Copyright © International African Institute 1987

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References

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