Endangered Archives

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EAP054: Archiving a Cameroonian photographic studio

The economic basis for professional black and white photography in Cameroon disappeared in 1998 with the introduction of new identity cards. They were issued with instant photographs, removing the need for 'passport photographs'. These had been the main work of rural photographers who could process and print the film without needing access to electricity. A small supporting industry of photographers, such as have been celebrated in exhibitions e.g. of the work of Seidou Keita, has effectively been destroyed by computerisation of the identity cards and the arrival of cheaper colour 35mm processing in the cities.

One such studio photographer is Jacques Toussele, with a collection of some 20,000 negatives, but who is aging and is not in the best of health. He can recognise many of the people in the photographs, enabling future research to be undertaken, thus greatly enhancing the importance of the archive.

The collection is vulnerable: physically it is stored in a back room of the studio and the roof is leaking - there are signs of deterioration and damage, with some negatives stuck together.

African black and white photography has been recognised as important through some celebrated exhibitions and publications (e.g. of Sidibé, Augustt and Keita) but this has not translated into action to preserve the work of other photographers. Few collections of West African photography have been archived and none are available for study from Cameroon. The archives will enable research in, for example, changing aesthetics, fashions and as the basis for family history research.

Digital SLRs will be used to copy the negatives. Since the negatives are 120 format the images will be of sufficiently high quality to be useful for research purposes. The archives will be housed at the National Archives in Yaoundé, with further copies available for study at the British Council Library in Cameroon and in two Cameroonian Universities: The University of Dschang (the nearest University to the location of the photographer) and the University of Ngaoundéré.

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EAP054/1: Archiving a Cameroonian photographic studio

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Jacques Toussele commissioned portraits of people from Mbouda, West Cameroon. Many of the photos are of individuals for Identity Cards and other administrative pruposes but also recreataional, family grops etc. The archives represent a record of life in this area in the 1970s and 1980s.

The aim of the project was to help protect the personal photographic archives of Mr J Toussele, a Cameroonian photographer in the town of Mbouda, Western Region, Cameroon. The archives represent a record of life in this area over the past thirty years. Before the project began they were in a poor state of preservation

The economic basis for professional black and white photography in Cameroon disappeared in 1998 with the introduction of new identity cards. They were issued with instant photographs, removing the need for 'passport photographs'. These had been the main work of rural photographers who could process and print the film without needing access to electricity. A small supporting industry of photographers, such as have been celebrated in exhibitions e.g. of the work of Seidou Keita, has effectively been destroyed by computerisation of the identity cards and the arrival of cheaper colour 35mm processing in the cities. One such studio photographer is Jacques Toussele, with a collection of some 20,000 negatives

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EAP054/1/167: Jacques Toussele Photographs: box 175 [c 1983]

Extent: 306 TIFF format files
Level: File
Scope and Content: "

Written on the outside of the box is the following: ""10/7/83 1/11/83""

Format of original: plastic negatives, 120 format

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