housed in a busy suburb of bamako, mali’s capital, malick’s tiny studio has a readily detectable pulse. the studio itself has become as much a subject in his photos as the countless men, women and children who have set foot inside the place to have their portraits made, or simply to visit with the local legend. the portraits, meanwhile, are remarkable, each one of the thousands of pictures somehow teasing out a central, telling element of the individual’s character. these portraits, one realizes, are evidence of a rare and intimate exchange, an empathy between sitter and portraitist.
as a photographer, being around malick in his small, storied, marvelous studio stirred something in me. the unflinching commitment to his ever-evolving, self-realized process, and his evident contentment with the place he has carved out for himself in the world of art, is both humbling and inspiring; his example forces me to engage the personal fears and hesitancies i suffer in my own work. the perfect artist, it seems to me now, fully gives himself over to a hard-earned trust in his own work, in his own methods. he doesn’t just avoid the creative roadblocks that so many of us place in our own paths; instead, he is so quietly confident making his own way that the roadblocks simply don’t exist.
nga, j. (2014) time inc. essay on malick sidibé