Portrait photographer Malik Sidibe has just won the top prize at Spain’s biggest photography festival, PhotoEspana. The award recognises his “exceptional abilities” and comes with a cheque for 12,000 euros.
Malik Sidibe opened his studio in 1958 and has been taking portraits ever since. Although he is now over 70, he is still working. He says, “In the West people have to have all this stuff to be happy, but we don’t have this system. But physical poverty doesn’t mean moral poverty. In Africa we have moral riches and happiness in our hearts.” In 2003, Malik Sidibe won the Hasselbad Foundation Award. He won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2007, and last year he won the New York International Centre of Photography’s Infinity Award. International recognition means people flock to his studio, magazines line up to commission him and he is invited everywhere for exhibitions and conferences. He says however, that it all came about by chance. “I didn’t aim to be a portrait photographer – I followed people – my clients – into protrait photography. Portraits are very important, for example my father never had the chance to see his own face. He never, well perhaps he saw it in a mirror. So photos were welcome in Africa.” Born in 1935, Malik Sidibe’s photos remain simple, straightforward and clear. His vision is full of truth and complicity, laughter and life. And it is exactly this simplicity and good heartedness which attracts people to Malik Sidibe’s photography.