Aperture Magazine

The magazine of photography and ideas

Starring Sanlé Sory

From a vivacious studio photographer, the music and style of 1960s West Africa.

 - May 9, 2018

The full title of the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition Volta Photo: Starring Sanlé Sory and the People of Bobo-Dioulasso in the Small but Musically Mighty Country of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) speaks to the depths of the relationship between Ibrahima Sanlé Sory and the communities he photographs. Customers flocked to the portrait studio Sory opened in the style-conscious city of Bobo-Dioulasso around 1960, the year the West African Republic of Upper Volta gained independence from France. Volta Photo gathers approximately eighty, mostly vintage photographs of the 1960s and 1970s, together with photographic album covers from the era. The exhibition also includes Sory’s signature painted backdrop, along with studio lamps and props that he still uses today. As Sory says, in his studio “religious people, artists, musicians, and everyone could become a hero.”

Volta Photo is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through August 19, 2018.