American photographer Eliot Elisofon (1911-1973) spent decades travelling around Africa. A pioneer in color photography – he worked as a color consultant on Hollywood movies (African Queen, Bell, Book and Candle, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Moulin Rouge) – Elisofon changed Western perceptions of ‘the Dark Continent’.
These pictures are from his collection of African masquerades (1942-1972) curated at the National Museum of African Art.
Texas University has a long profile of the photographer:
For generations foreign photographers had misrepresented Africa as a mysterious or uncivilized continent full of exotic animals, backward peoples and strange landscapes.The limitations and/or prejudices of many “objective” documentaryphotographers and writers had discolored the entire portrait of a vibrant land and its myriad cultures. Elisofon’s social consciousness and inherent humanness would not tolerate it. He held that “Africa is the fulcrum of world power” and he sought to have America “wake up to that fact.” Eliot became the first Western photographer to recognize the incredible richness and diversity of the nations of Africa–establishing a tradition since followed by such photographers as Constance Stuart Larrabee and Peter Beard–and fought to show what he saw to the world.
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