Archiving a Cameroonian photographic studio

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.