Self-Portrait and Self-Vision. On the Work of Samuel Fosso

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-47
Number of pages8
Journal / PublicationNka Journal of Contemporary African Art
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


Ingrid Hölzl is an art theorist and art critic and teaches anthropology of arts, aesthetics, and sociology of arts at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. She has recently published a book on the theory of photographic self-portraiture using the example of Samuel Fosso (published in March 2008 by Wilhelm Fink, Germany).
In July 2008, Samuel Fosso showed his new series African Spirits for the first time at the Photography Festival in Arles. In fourteen black-and-white self-portaits he reinterprets well-known photographs of important African and Afro-American personalities such as Aimé Césaire, Leéopold Senghor, Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Muhammad Ali, or Tommie Smith. By appropriating historical portrait photographs in the form of model-self-portraits combining self-portraiture and model-portraiture, Fosso definitely amplifies the scope of what is possible within the framework of self-photography.
1. Philippe Dubois, L'acre photographique (Paris: Nathan, 1990).
2. High-end digital cameras still use, for reasons of image quality, mechanical shutters; only small point-and-shoot cameras, working with other sensors, have electronic shutters.
3. Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
4. Ingrid Hölzl, Der autoporträtistische Pakt. Zur Theorie des fotografischen Selbstporträts am Beispiel von Samuel Fosso (München: Fink, 2008).
5. Amélie Jones, "Survey," in The Artists' Body, ed. Tracey Warr (London: Phaidon, 2000), pp. 16-47.
6. In the Bonetti/Schlinkert monograph of 2004, the series was only mentioned in the bibliography and not in the index of works. See Bonetti, Maria Francesca; Schlinkert, Guido, Samuel Fosso, Exhibition Catalogue Calcografia, Rom/Centro Internazionale di Fotografia Scavi Scaligeri, Verona (Milano: 3 Continents, 2004).
7. Even if his adolescent self-portraits from the 1970s were taken with the intention of sending them to his mother in a purely memorial gesture, he was already conscious of their artistic quality: it is not without reason that he carefully kept the negatives so that thirty years later Bernard Descamps, looking for talents to expose at the first Encounters of African Photography of Bamako, could discover them and make them known.