For a decade, Maiga’s Timbuktu studio was a vibrant meeting place frequented by the sports stars, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and dignitaries he photographed. The subjects populating Maiga’s images wear eclectic styles, fusing old and new, and African and Western influences. Some adopted the poses of pop cultural figures they liked, smoked cigarettes, or held radio transmitters, shot against painted botanical backdrops.
Many of his compositions suggest a modern West African reinterpretation of 19th-century portrait photography in Europe, but Maiga’s deep formal command of his medium and interest in strong contrasts are evident in the works. He constructed every detail during his shoots in order to coax out the possibilities of the black-and-white print. The resulting photographs are highly stylized and symbolic, perhaps, of a new era of self-determination in Malian society.