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We are delighted to announce Samuel Fosso as the winner of this year’s Prize. His sustained exploration of self-portraiture uses a traditional, studio-based approach steeped in history, while at the same time his work remains relevant and addresses contemporary political issues of today with humour and authenticity. His work has created an extraordinary platform for Black voices and artists throughout his career.
Shoair Mavlian, Director The Photographers’ Gallery
Samuel Fosso (b. 1962, Kumba, Cameroon) was nominated for his exhibition Samuel Fosso at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France (10 November 2021 – 13 March 2022).
Described as a ‘man of a thousand faces’, Fosso has assumed a central role in the theatre of post-colonial identity.
By reinventing and reimagining key historical figures and social archetypes in front of the camera, by unfixing identity, Fosso has created a new and more complex image for himself and for Africa.
The photographer was only 13 when he established a commercial studio in Bangui, Central African Republic. His early experiments with performance and the transformative potential of self-portraiture (70s Lifestyle series) were a significant development in the long tradition of studio photography in Africa. For the African Spirits series, Fosso re-staged austere portraits of such leading figures as Martin Luther King, Angela Davis and Haile Selassie. It marked his desire to inscribe key figures from the history of black resistance onto museum walls.
Fosso unfixes identity by turning the camera on himself, reinventing and reimagining key historical figures and social archetypes. He embodies a powerful way of existing in the world, and a vivid demonstration of photography’s role in the construction of myths.
I don't do political. What I seek is peace. I want us to be equal; black and white. I want to be the voice of the voiceless.- Samuel Fosso
Samuel Fosso’s photography radically embodies a disruptive dialogue with our time. If you allow it, his work will take you on the highway to the world. You will travel through desires, history, pain, pleasure, memory and agony. On this journey, you will find what’s absent culturally and politically transfigured, reordered and made newly present.Mark Sealy - DBPFP 2023 catalogue
Born in Kumba, Cameroon and raised in Nigeria, Fosso fled the Biafran War as a young boy, and in 1972 was taken in by an uncle in Bangui in the Central African Republic. In 1975, at the age of thirteen, Fosso opened his Studio Photo Nationale.
Samuel Fosso has exhibited in major international venues including the Centre National de la Photographie, Paris; Tate Modern and National Portrait Gallery, London and the Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art, New York. The major retrospective of his work, inaugurated at Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris in 2022 travelled to Huis Marseille, Amsterdam and Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany.
In 2020, the Monograph Autoportrait, the first comprehensive survey of Samuel Fosso’s work, was published by Steidl.