PHILIPPE KOUDJINA - PHOTO SOUVENIR
Philippe Koudjina’s illuminating photographs of the early days of independence in Niger contrast starkly with its impoverished reality 50 years on. The documentary ”Photo Souvenir" explores ideas of the value of art and the legacy of colonialism; a rare glimpse at one of Niger’s great forgotten talents.
Today Koudjina has fallen on hard times. He is no longer able to take photos because he is slowly losing his sight to glaucoma. After being hit by a car, he must use crutches to get around, and he can’t afford the medical care he requires. His cameras, photographic equipment and a disorganized collection of negatives gather dust in a decaying cupboard, while he begs on the street in order to survive.
© Philippe Koudjina, undated, Self portrait
While the film documents the effort by two French photo connoisseurs to organize an exhibition of Koudjina’s work in Paris, Photo Souvenir reveals the fickle cultural process by which one-time “photo souvenirs” become “photographic art,” and whether or not an artistic reputation is made in the Western world.