Fashionable Photography in Mid-Twentieth- Century Senegal

by Leslie Rabine


This article explores the reciprocal transformative effects of Senegalese fashion and photography from the post-World-War-II movements for Independence to the transnational youth movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It draws upon photographs from a museum archive and several family collections in Senegal. Photographs as physical objects and their particular archival spaces decisively influence the way we read photographic content. They thus also influence the way we read the look and meaning of the fashions portrayed. But the converse also holds: new, politically imbued fashions can disrupt established genres of Senegalese photography and the ideology these encoded. The genres in question here are studio portraiture, colonial ethnography, political reportage, and personal snapshot. Examples of fashion include lavish new clothing styles that emerge after World War II, and controversial youth fashions of the 1960s and 1970s. Together these fashions and photos form a case study for potential cross-fertilization between the fields of African fashion and colonial/postcolonial photography.

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