Oumar Ly

Portraits from the bush and the studio  Podor 1963/1978

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16th of January > 14th of March 2020 

As part of the Season Africa 2020

Sans titre. Série Podor, 1963-1978 © Oumar Ly - courtesy Sitor Senghor 

Portraits from the bush and the studio  Podor 1963/1978

Omar Ly passed away in 2016, age 73.
He leaves behind a large family and unique photographic archives, telling the story of Podor's and the nearby villages' inhabitants.

We discover a small world populated with children and adults' faces that posed in the studio, from 1963, in front of fabrics showing a painted Boeing 747, a mosque or a luxuriant landscape. 
We also find - more rarely - thousands of pictures taken in the village with, as only background, a loincloth, the white door of the sub-prefect's 2CV, or simply the pale sky scorched by the heat. On these pictures we guess, sneaking in, the bush landscape: dry earth with sparse acacias ; whipped by the Harmattan. And above all, the singularity of each of the models, who timidly, awkwardly, offer themselves for the first time to the photographer's lens. 

All these beautiful an moving portraits will forever remain the memory of Podor. Portraits with a singular elegance, accuracy, simply accurate and free. 


Frédérique Chapuis


Oumar Ly is the son of a merchant, born in 1943 on the River Senegal banks. I never learnt how to read. By chance, while looking at military settled in the fort taking pictures, he discovered photography. The young Ly purchases his first camera, a Kodak Brownie flash for 1500 CFA. He learns alongside Demba Assane Sy who practices photography on the side of his nursing profession. Fate had made him lucky when Senegal, that became independent, wanted to give identity papers to all its citizens. The administration takes him on and sends him to cross the brush and take  take ppictures of his co-citizens. In 1963, photography is fashionable. Clients flock to get their picture taken in the Thioffy studio, settled in the market's area in Podor, that was then a prosperous little town at the border with Mauritania. 

Until his death in 2016, he never left his native region or his studio, after having photographed every era, the rich wearing boubou, families, the young in Yéyé fashion, and even public events that marked the life of this distant province, to the Noth of Senegal. 

Highlighted by the Marie-Louise & Son association the "Portraits of the bush" were collected in an album published by the Filigranes  in 2009.