By Nii B. Andrews.
The prolific African photographer and self- portraitist, Samuel Fosso has won this year’s prestigious Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.
In a career spanning five decades, Fosoo has produced telling social commentary with his enigmatic studio based photographs of historic personalities.
These personalities have included: Angela Davis, Chairman Mao, Malcolm X, Tommie Smith and Patrice Lumumba.
On account of the vast array of portraits presented in his oeuvre, Fosso has earned the moniker, “the man of a 1000 faces”.
The GBP 30 000 prize was in recognition of his recent retrospective exhibition, Samuel Fosso, at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris.
Anne-Marie Beckmann, the director of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, said Fosso’s retrospective “opened up new perspectives, allowing many more people to discover his work for the first time; and thrilled and surprised those who felt they already knew it”.
“Through the retrospective we were able to see his work differently and gain a much deeper understanding of the relevance of his practice today,” she said.
Fosso initially established his photo studio in Bangui; he commenced doing his self portraits as a way of not wasting film.
“I started taking self-portraits simply to use up spare film; people wanted their photographs the next day, even if the roll wasn’t finished, and I didn’t like waste. The idea was to send some pictures to my mother in Nigeria, to show her I was all right,” he explained.
His photos act as a rhetorical device (one which conveys a meaning with the goal of persuading the viewer towards considering a topic from a perspective), in which the artist communicates to the audience by speaking as another person.
Over the last several decades, his self portraits have been placed in many important public cultural institutions and private collections.