© Mama Casset, ca. 1950, series “African Photo”

Mama Casset’s images are made unique through his masterful eye and artistic compositions. As a portrait photographer, Casset saw himself as an ‘artist’; he had no interest to portray real life as could be implied by the very nature of the medium.

Directing his sitters with a tilt of the head, or a tight framing and sometimes shooting from a low-angle; he created his signature style, compositions that put the irrevocable stamp of Mama Casset all over them. Like the Malian photographer Seydou Keïta in his earlier years, Casset only used a simple curtain as a backdrop, bringing all attention to the fore, his subject.

Casset grew renown photographing members of his social circle. Word quickly got out and before long, he was masterfully composing images of Dakar’s residents, urban Africans from all walks of life and varying social strata. By 1960, with independence came the demise of the European studio. Casset thought it timely to open his second outpost in M’Bour, a coastal town south of Dakar. He flourished, becoming one of the top photographers of his day.

Things were however to take a tragic turn in the later years of his life. By 1983 Casset was completely blind and forced to retire. Adding insult to injury, the following year his studio caught fire destroying the majority of his archives. The few images remaining, hidden from public view, and scattered in the photo albums and personal collections of Dakar’s families. (read more)

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The book ‘Mama Casset, African Photo’ published by Paris-based Revue Noire, written by Pascal Martin Saint Leon and Jean Loup Pivin, a small format [13 x 18 cm] book showcasing 70 black and white photographs by Mama Casset is available exclusively through Revue Noire, Paris. (more info here)

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