Sory Sanlé – Volta Photo, 1965-1985

Ibrahima Sory Sanlé (b. 1943) started his photographic career in Bobo-Dioulasso in 1960, the year his country gained independence from France under the name République de Haute-Volta (now Burkina Faso). He opened his Volta Photo portrait studio and, working with his Rolleiflex twin lens medium format camera, Volta Photo soon became recognised as the finest studio in the city. Sory Sanlé’s uniformly square black and white images possess a unique creative flair that epitomises Voltaic photography’s unsung golden age.

Sanlé’s work examines the natural fusion between tradition and modernity. He documented the fast evolution of Bobo-Dioulasso, then Haute-Volta’s cultural and economic capital, portraying the city’s inhabitants with wit, energy and passion. His work conveys a youthful exuberance in the wake of the first decades of African independence.

Sanlé’s photograghs were featured in the recent Auto Photo exhibition at Fondation Cartier, Paris, and from 27th April to 19th August 2018, Art Institute of Chicago will show Volta Photo: Starring Sanlé Sory and the People of Bobo-Dioulasso. This exhibiton will bring together over 100 vintage photographs, plus objects from the Volta Photo studio, including illustrated backdrops, studio lighting, cameras and props. 

Morton-Hill and Reel Art Press have co-published Sory Sanlé – Volta Photo 1965-85, which is the first book of Sanlé’s work and is available now.