Rare 20th Century Africa Through Eliot Elisofon’s Lense

via the Smithsonian Museum of African Art

Africa ReViewed: The Photographic Legacy of Eliot Elisofon showcases the African photography of celebrated Life magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon and explores the intricate relationships between his photographic archives and art collection at the National Museum of African Art. It was Elisofon’s images-perhaps more than any other American photographer’s-that framed America’s perceptions of Africa and its diverse arts and cultures during the 20th century.

Photography has enriched my life. It has enabled me to travel . . . to almost every corner of the globe, using my camera as a magic carpet to see and study the meaning and beauty of civilizations and environments besides my own.
-Eliot Elisofon

A world-class photographer, Eliot Elisofon was best known for his early color photography and photographic essays in Life magazine. He traveled extensively throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America for Life, Time, National Geographic andSmithsonian magazines, book publishers, and film and television producers. From 1947 to 1972, Elisofon undertook 11 expeditions to Africa and produced five photo feature stories for Life. 

He pioneered color photography during the 1950s and directed and produced motion picture films and television programs on the arts and cultures of Africa during the 1960s and early 1970s. As both a writer and a photographer, Elisofon published illustrated books, including The Sculpture of Africa (with William Fagg, 1958), The Nile (1964), and Color Photography (1964). He was a member of the Photo League in New York City (serving as president from 1940 to 1941), the Explorer’s Club, and the Royal Anthropological Society (UK).