Excerpt from New York Times, Critic's Pick, Jan. 5, 2023
Within Himself, an African Photographer Finds Multitudes
A studio portraitist turns the lens on flamboyant alter egos in his first solo U.S. museum exhibition at Princeton.
By Arthur Lubow
"In the aftermath of the civil war in Nigeria that devastated his Igbo community, Samuel Fosso was sent in 1972 to live with an uncle who was a shoemaker in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Dissatisfied with cobbling, Fosso apprenticed with an Igbo photographer down the street. Three years after his arrival, he opened his own portrait studio. He was 13.
At the end of the workday, he would finish off a roll of black-and-white film with self-portraits for his grandmother back home, to demonstrate that despite having been a sickly child, he was in robust health. Showing off in front of the painted backdrops he used for his clients, he would put on a tank top and briefs, oversized sunglasses, a jiu-jitsu costume or fashionably fringed white pants — adopting the attire and attitudes of African and African American pop stars.
So began a lifelong project of self-portrait impersonations that has established Fosso, 60, as one of Africa’s leading photographers. His first solo American museum exhibition, “Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts,” organized by the art historian and professor Chika Okeke-Agulu at the Princeton University Art Museum, draws heavily from the holdings of the collector Artur Walther and offers a compact presentation of Fosso’s work."