Celebrities, presidents and partygoers are all part of a rich archive of images from Senegal in the 1950s and 1960s mostly unseen by the public until now.
They are the work of World War Two veteran Roger DaSilva who set up his own photo studio in the capital Dakar – “Studio Da Silva” – where many of these photos were taken.
“He was an artist at heart,” his son Luc DaSilva tells the BBC. “Photography was his life.”
Roger DaSilva was never formally exhibited during his lifetime yet he had a vast body of work of about 75,000 photographs on negatives, most of which remain unseen.
They have since been restored by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Le Korsa and Luc DaSilva’s Xaritufoto organisation – with a selection of these now on display at this weekend’s Also Known As Africa art and design fair in Paris.
Roger DaSilva was born in Benin and took up photography when he joined the French army in 1942.
“He was wounded while in service, so a colonel drafted him in to take medical photos in hospitals – some were of people who had survived concentration camps,” Luc says.ADVERTISEMENT
Soon after the war ended DaSilva decided to settle in Senegal.
At that time, Senegal like many other African countries was on the cusp of independence. DaSilva’s photographs capture Dakar’s high society of the era – the upscale nightclubs and weddings, as well as family portraits and street scenes.
DaSilva cut a chic figure himself, as his self-portraits show. In one, we see him poised with a cigarette in hand.
Another shows him shaking hands with US jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald at the 1966 World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar.
He also met and photographed jazz musician Louis Armstrong there, alongside Oscar-winning actress Ingrid Bergman.
Another notable subject he captured was Senegal’s first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor.
“I think all of them made a big impression on him,” Luc says. “But Satchmo [Louis Armstrong’s nickname] was his favourite singer.”
Restoration of these images has been a joint effort over several years.
“There’s a spirit of joy and gaiety in my father’s photos, I feel very close to his work,” says Luc.
“This is about archive and memory, and preserving and valuing African photography. It’s a shared heritage.”
All images taken by Roger DaSilva, copyright of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and courtesy of Xaritufoto and Le Korsa.