Sory Sanlé, 74, is a local hero in Burkina Faso. Since 1960 he has travelled on his motorbike to remote villages around Bobo and Banfora, bringing his own power supply, throwing parties, setting up lights and playing records so that the locals could dress up in their finest clothes and pose for a portrait.
He started out documenting highway wrecks in and around the village of Bobo, near where he was born. Thanks to a cousin with a successful driving school, Sanlé soon set up a studio, Volta Photo, from where he worked as a reporter, a record sleeve illustrator and an official photographer, but it was the travelling portraits he loved most.
He portrays his subjects – and he has amassed thousands of them over the years – with wit and energy, but with a winning fondness, too. He even creates his own painted backdrops, so that they can choose to be seen in front of a modern city, or among Classical columns, or about to board a plane at an airport.
"In many ways," says Florent Mazzoleni, the French author who discovered Sanlé, "Sory's subjects illustrate the remoteness and melancholy of African cities landlocked deep in the heart of the African continent. They also convey a youthful exuberance in the wake of the first decades of African independence."