SORY SANLÉ – VOLTA PHOTO 1965-85 at Morton Hill Gallery in London


Sory Sanlé: Volta Photo 1965-85 is a collection of photographic work by Sory Sanlé, an eminent portrait photographer from Burkina Faso, the landlocked country in West Africa formerly colonised by the French, then known as Republique de Haute-Volta. ‘Voltaic’ photography’s unsung golden age is fully embodied by Sanlé. His black and white images magnify this era and display a unique cultural energy and social impact.

Until now Sanlé’s photographs have been held in private collections, but recently major museums from around the world have been taking considerable interest in him. The Fondation Cartier in Paris is showing four of Sanlé’s photographs in their Autophoto exhibition this summer, alongside work from William Eggleston, Man Ray, Lee Freidlander, Daido Moriyama, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, among others.

This stunning edition is the first book dedicated to Sory Sanlé’s photography and will be accompanied by Sanlé’s first international solo exhibition at Morton Hill Gallery, London. Sory Sanlé: Volta Photo 1965-85 will run at the Morton Hill Gallery in Ladbroke Grove, west London from 14 September to 27 October 2017, with a private view to be held on 13 September.

Sory Sanlé was born in 1943 in the Nianiagara district of Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s cultural and socio-economic hub. He began his career in photography in 1960 – the same year his country regained its independence. Working as an apprentice to a Ghanaian photographer, he learned to process and print the photographs he took with his Rolleiflex twin lens camera.
Sanlé began documenting the city on his motorbike, capturing its centuries-old traditions and evolving identity in the wake of African independence. He worked as a freelance reporter, on official assignments, and illustrating record sleeves, but his real passion was studio work.

"Mr. Sanlé’s work documenting the cultural scene is reminiscent of that by Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita . . . and now it is his turn to be lionised." New York Times

In 1960 Sanlé opened his own portrait studio in Bobo-Dioulasso under the name, Volta Photo, where he photographed the city’s inhabitants. He shot them with an original wit, energy and passion – men, women, young, old, confident, vulnerable, elegant, carefree – while capturing the natural fusion between
tradition and modernity. His work conveys a youthful exuberance in the wake of the first decades of African independence. In many ways, Sanlé’s subjects also illustrate the remoteness and melancholy of African cities landlocked deep in the heart of the continent. The powerful poignancy with which Sanlé captured his subjects at this particular moment and place in time is what distinguishes him from his contemporaries.

© Autoportrait Au Miroir, 1966, Sory Sanlé

Morton Hill Gallery – London
September, 14 – October, 27 2017

Published by – Reel Art Press R|A|P
September 2017

£19.95 / $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-909526-52-5
80pp; Hardback; 35+ b&w photographs; 245 x 200 mm / 9.5 x 8 in.