It's a Christmas party; quite late, you'd imagine. The picture shows a young black couple. She's barefoot in her best sixties frock, he's in loafers and a snappy white suit. They're jiving together – not quite touching, yet, but with their heads dipped in close, both faces lit up with shy, almost disbelieving smiles. It's an astonishing photograph, full of intimacy and energy, joy and anticipation, taken in 1963 by the Malian photographer, Malick Sidibé, known as The Eye Of Bamako.
The above's an excerpt from last weekend's UK Guardian interview with veteran Malian photographer, Malick Sidibe, whose images capture the spirit of Bamako in the heady period around independence. The men in the photographs are the more flamboyant. One brought his motorbike into the studio and posed astride, his two women alongside. They have bro-bags (or what is it they call them these days) and look quite dandy in their Parissiene clothes. They hold up their hands so you can see their fancy wristwatchs (not unlike suspiciously camp rappers holding up their 'ice' now). Decades later, the men in Sidibe's photographs look pretty metrosexual - and these guys probably never knew a man could be confused about his sexuality. You were a man and that was it, and so you could hold another man's hand in a photograph and have the Eye of Bamako click away. Innocent times.
Malick Sidibe was born in 1935 or 36, "he's not too sure which" - ah, bless. I know a couple of folks like that!
- Previously unseen images of Malick Sidibe's open at the Lichfield Studios, London W10 on March 11. They will be on display till April 16.