Oumar Ly, Untitled, 1963-1978, Digital print on forex and acryl mounted in an aluminium box. Courtesy (S)ITOR / Sitor Senghor
Oumar Ly, Untitled, 1963-1978, Digital print on forex and acryl mounted in an aluminium box. Courtesy (S)ITOR / Sitor Senghor  

The son of a shop-owning marabout, Oumar Ly arrived at photography through a chance encounter with a French serviceman. Soon thereafter, young Ly acquired his first camera, a Kodak Brownie Flash and in 1963, he opened Thioffy Studio in the market sector of Podor, a then small, prosperous commercial town near the Mauritanian border. Ly benefited from his country’s recent independence once identity cards with photographs became standard issue.

His small environ, echoing that of Seydou Keita’s studio clad in cloth backdrops, was popular amongst local residents of neighbouring villages. His archives, which contain over 5,000 photographs, are an unparalleled treasure trove of daily life in Senegal. His work has been widely shown and his legacy continues far beyond the immediate impact of Thioffy Studio.