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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Unidentified Woman, Mali, 1953

Unidentified Woman, Mali, 1953

Hector Acebes

Colombian, 1921 - 2017

Traveling alone, Hector Acebes aimed to record the "truth of an era" in Africa by focusing on "faces with character". In this portrait, a face is framed by contrasting textures- billowing gauze, a cracked mud wall, shiny skin and dense gold jewelry. What arrests attention, however, is the woman gazing back with confidence. Interacting with such candor, she breaks the mold of distorted perceptions of African people that were all too prevalent in this era.

Mr. Acebes explored parts of Africa with his Rollieflex and a strong reliance on antics and humor. The camera enabled him to shoot from hip height and still keep engaged with his subjects. He used tricks, such as one from Times Square involving a tightly closed jar filled with surprise rubber snakes, to establish connections with people. That he did, indeed, connect and allow his subjects to be active participants in the photographic process is evident in many of his images. After his final and most extensive journey from Dakar to Nairobi in 1953, Mr. Acebes's career turned toward industrial filmmaking and this corpus of work was packed away until 2001. An archive was established for him by Ed Marquand in 2003.

Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6cm)
Gift of Ed Marquand in honor of Pamela McClusky and in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryAtlanta, Georgia, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Engaging the Camera: African Women, Portraits and the Photographs of Hector Acebes, October 25, 2004 - February 21, 2005
Published ReferencesBrielmaier, Isolde and Marquand, Ed Hector Acebes: Portraits in Africa 1948-1953, Marquand Books, Seattle (2004): p. 8

Barnwell, Andrea D. and Brielmaier, Isolde, "Engaging the Camera: African Women, Portraits and the Photographs of Hector Acebes", Marquand Books, Inc., Seattle (2004): p. 2, cat. 33

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