Forty years ago Mirella Ricciardi travelled through Kenya and Sudan to photograph some of the last unspoilt tribes of Africa. She returned with a unique collection of visceral photographs that formed her seminal book Vanishing Africa (1971), an international bestseller. The Michael Hoppen Gallery are delighted to announce an exhibition of both iconic and previously unseen photographs taken in Africa by Ricciardi - none of which have been exhibited in the United Kingdom for more than 35 years.
When Mirella Ricciardi began taking pictures in Kenya in 1967, she was free from the encumbrance of formal photographic training. Her fresh eye, combined with an unconventional childhood - surrounded by an array of animals and tribes people on the shores of Lake Naivasha - imbued Ricciardi with a rare ability to instinctively capture the last moments of uncorrupted East African tribal life. Her aim was to photograph the six tribal groups in Kenya whose traditional way of life remained almost untouched by the tide of Western Civilisation ' the Samburu, the Maasai, the Rendille, the Turkana, the Bajun and the Gala Boran. Travelling, in a second hand Toyota land cruiser she spent two years instinctively capturing the simple rhythms of life and death, the joy, ceremony and beauty of these African people.
At the time, Ricciardi was unaware of the extent of the threat of Western civilisation to this way of life and how timely her presence was. Tribal life would soon be replaced with the acute new problems of the late 20th century, which brought hotels, safaris and tourists resulting in the disintegration and westernisation of many tribes.
Vanishing Africa was a prototype coffee-table book, bringing Ricciardi's work to new audiences. This exhibition is the result of exploring rediscovered archives of Ricciardi's work, found by her daughter Amina, in the family cellar in Africa. Many photographs in the exhibition, although worthy, did not make the final layout for the book, and will be seen for the very first time as large, limited edition platinum prints. Renowned printmakers, 31 Studio, will produce the hand made platinum prints for the exhibition.
Ricciardi currently resides in London has continued to work as a photographer, publishing four further photographic books: Vanishing Amazon, African Saga, African Rainbow and most recently, African Visions.