In 2013, the French photographer Adrien Tache visited the Mauritanian photographer Yagafel in his Nouhadibou studio and photographed him. In the picture, Yagafel leans over a small receptionist’s counter that’s plastered with photos, a checked cap resting on his resolute head. He is one of many West African photographers, most of them self-taught, who provide an invaluable service to their communities by preserving the memories of birthdays, weddings, and graduations. But that could change.
“Once everyone gets their own camera, they won’t need us anymore,” one of the photographers told Tache. “Who knows, maybe they will shoot even better than us. We will disappear little by little and only the laboratories will remain, for the customers.”
That’s why Tache has been traveling the region for the past two years and creating portraits of its studio photographers, many of whom still use old, silver-based cameras and equipment from the 1970s and ’80s. “I met them everywhere: Mauritania, Guinea Conakry, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso,” he wrote on Lensculture, explaining his desire to capture a slice of Africa’s photographic history before it fades away. “These photos are my way of showing the realities of a business, a way of life, an era that is almost over.”