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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Rachidi Bissiriou

Dates:  1950 -
Born:  Benin (now, formerly Dahomey), Kétou
Press Release "Rachidi Bissiriou: Gloire Immortelle", 10 June - 29 July 2022 (David Hill Gallery, London)
Born in 1950 in the town of Kétou, Bissiriou began photographing members of his community after Benin was finally granted independence in 1960. In 1968, he opened Studio Pleasure in Kétou at the age of 18, which he operated until 2004. Following its closure, the now 72-year-old Bissiriou retired from photography to breed sheep and chickens, with an unlikely stint working in local politics.
Bissiriou inadvertently documented an intense period of seismic cultural and political shiftsthrough his disarmingly beautiful portraits of local people as he found them. The connections he forged with his subjects bred open and revealing images with an air of unguarded ease. At the time, cameras were largely understood as a bureaucratic tool and regarded with suspicion, thus the relaxed atmosphere Bissiriou was able to conjure is remarkable.
The images offer an insight into the diversity and beauty of West-African style during the period. A fusion of traditional attire such as grand boubou, head wraps and Ankara agbadas, are brought into conversation with a burgeoning westernised youth culture. An aura of true self-expression and a newfound freedom emanates from the figures, exemplified by the image of two young men in flares paired with billowing open shirts and the portrait depicting a woman posing proudly with her handbag.
Bissiriou’s innate photographic talent shines through in the delicate framing and lighting of these black and white pictures. There is something markedly contemporary about the vacant settings and the way he situates the figure within the shot. A comparison comes to mind with contemporary ‘street style’ photography due to the combination of casualness and personal expression.

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