3 August 2012
Last updated at 01:20
In 1954, a 22-year-old Ivorian photographer, nicknamed Clic Clac Baby, started taking pictures, quickly setting up a studio in the small town of Adiake, 120km (75 miles) from the then capital city Abidjan. His photos from that era have only just found a wider audience. A selection of them is currently being shown in Abidjan.
Reminiscent of the celebrated photographers Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita from neighbouring Mali, his pictures capture the era around the country’s independence in 1960, when the country was quickly emerging as one of the continent’s economic success stories.
“Photographic work of the old days and this modern photographic work is very different, because nowadays you have so many pictures, so many cameras. Today, within 15 minutes you get your photo. I know that nowadays, photographic work is very, very easy. It’s not the same,” he said.
With 1,500 CFA francs (around $6 at the time) he bought his first camera and started walking up to 30km a day around the villages in his cocoa- and pineapple-growing region taking portraits, often with an improvised backdrop of local cloth.
The collection of 30 photos from the 1960s show a surprisingly fashionable world, with subjects dressing up for photos and posing with status symbols of the day, like portable radios and scooters.
“Before, if you had a radio or a television – you’d dress up well, and come and listen. Now everyone has them, but before they were rare. A man who had a radio – wow, that was a rich man,” the photographer explained.
These beers are now known as "Drogbas" after the country’s famous football star, but in the 1960s, long before the footballer was born, they were just as popular in the local "maquis" - Ivorian bar-restaurants.
Some of the work kept in his simple studio has not survived, but a surprising number of the 6x6 format negatives have been well preserved thanks to Baby’s meticulous filing.
“I know that if I can keep the negative well, sometimes the people will come and ask me about their photos. ‘Hey Mr Baby, the other day my mother or my father took photo with you – my mother’s died or my father’s died. Can you get one of the negatives to print for me?',” he said.
“We mustn’t forget the past. It’s the past that’s created the present. If your father didn’t exist, how could you exist?” he asks. The exhibition runs at the Institute Goethe in Abidjan until 10 August. Text by the BBC Africa’s John James.