Mohamed Camara

From the Work to the Artist

Mohamed Camara was born in Bamako, Mali in 1983 and he lives and works in Paris and Bamako.

Dribble and challenge
The biography of Mohamed Camara is often related like a fairy-tale, a story full of hurtling dynamics and rapid transitions. Starting with a digital camera which the young 18-year old footballer received as a quasi-challenge by the coordinator of a photography studio in Bamako, to an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, (London) in 2004, then the ICP in New York in 2006 …. only five years had gone by.
The young man assumed he could take photos like any other photographer seen in magazines, but he quickly realized it wasn’t so simple … How can you take photos when people in the street don’t like being photographed? And how to avoid your camera from getting stolen? Accompanied by Antonin Potoski, the workshop coordinator, Mohamed Camara made this constraint and fear be the force of this first photographs.

The light, a living matter
He quickly became interested in light, a “living material” as he puts it, which filters within the houses in Bamako, his family and friends. The threshold of the door decorated by curtains, the window which keeps in the heat and light, the intimacy of rooms emerge as his attention focus and his first shots but also for a film, Les rideaux de Mohamed (2003). The photographs of Chambres maliennes (2000-2001) find their way from Bamako to Paris Photo in 2002 and into the Pierre Brullé Gallery in Paris.
His passion for football is always present in the series “Even when I sleep I never let go of my jersey” whereas in another photograph a jersey is used as a curtain, concealing the sun “My own personal sunshine is football”.

Photographic series like a comic book
Each photograph has a caption, making for a story-title such as “Welcome to Uncle Yoro’s”, “A well-closed curtain recalls a love story”. These sentences in French are produced after having made the photo. They intervene like translations, explanations of what he’s first done in his own language, the Bambara. In an interview with Africultures, he also relates how these phrases summarize common scenes in Bamako daily life and how they allow his photos to mature like a comic book “each new series is like a new book”.

After Chambres maliennes, the artist becomes part of a series Certains Matins (2004-2006), but avoiding self-portraits as his face is hidden by a window (“Mohamed breathes in some fresh air”), his head sagging between his shoulders (“Certain mornings I don’t have the strength to face the day”), or with his body back to the lens but facing a red, fluorescent heart with his left hand stretched out towards it (“Certain mornings I pray to my God”). The series Sans-Têtes (2005), heads and faces blinded by the light, the flash, radicalized by the framing partiality. The series Cactus de Sibérie (2008) pursues the story, launching another book through its radical geographic displacement. The spectator notably discovers Mohamed Camara bare-chested, facing pine-trees and snowy mountains, an encounter which the caption call “Certain mornings, I am the cactus of Siberia.”

Water taken literally
It’s a short title, L’eau, which this time accompanies the two editions commissioned for the “Festival de l’Oh!” The first print is used for the poster of this event about water and its value. For this creation alongside the MAC/VAL within the framework of his residence in 2009, Mohamed Camara seized the opportunity to take a new turning point in his artistic career. Water is an echo to the photograph “Certain mornings are not like others” (from the series Certains matin) where a man can be distinguished in the shadows facing lines of neatly-arranged small plastic bags filled with water. A quaint, bright suite which Mohamed Camara uses again but here with the bags of water grouped together like a necklace around the neck of a young pregnant woman whose expression could evoke the onomatopoeic “Oh!”. In the second edition, we see the same bags of water, shaped like balloons attached to guardrails. This time there is no caption but obviously associated with numerous symbols or myths which the spectator would like to discover and share.