The life's work of one of
Fosso, who was born in
His archive could have been lost for ever - another casualty of the CAR's bitter conflict - this week were it not for its chance discovery and extraordinary rescue by two photographers chronicling the violence,
Bleasdale said: "Jerome was taking pictures in Miskin, which is the Muslim quarter where Fosso lived - although he's not a Muslim himself. Everyone had left and the Christian population was looting.
"He found a bunch of negatives lying in the dirt. Some of them had been rained on. Fosso's housekeeper was still there trying to protect the house and studio from looters. He went in and there was maybe 150-200 prints which he rescued. But there were [also] boxes full of negatives - Fosso's life's work - maybe 20,000."
Amid gunfire, the two photographers - accompanied by
"Everything of major value was being stolen. But the prints had been left inside the house even as the roof was being ripped off," Bleasdale added. "A lot were portraits he had been making of local people. We couldn't rescue his cameras but we went back to get the archive."
In a blog for the New York Times, Delay said: "Thirty years of work lay scattered in the dust. It reminded me of Serbian militias destroying birth reports from Muslim Kosovars in the early 2000s.
"Ten minutes after I started to gather up his work, a French patrol drove by, demanding to know why a journalist was frantically putting things in a bag. Once I explained, the captain proposed that he 'shoot and send the looters away'.
"Fosso's office was littered with more boxes of negatives and prints. Limited-edition, museum-quality prints, some burned on the edges - they must have tried to set the house ablaze - some soiled with water and mud. As we walked out with the most valuable work, an anti-Balaka militiaman toting an AK-47 rushed by firing into the air. He accused us of 'having called Sangaris' - the French forces - and ordered us to leave.
"Shoving all the prints and negatives into my car, we sped away. I called Fosso in
Fosso's career took off in the mid-1990s after a chance encounter with a French talent scout led to his work being shown at the Guggenheim in
Despite his international fame, Fosso had continued to live discreetly in the
In an interview in the Guardian in 2011, Fosso said his favourite photo was a self-portrait of himself dressed as an African chieftain clutching a bunch of giant sunflowers. He described how he had found his photographic voice. "I started taking self-portraits simply to use up spare film; people wanted their photographs the next day, even if the roll wasn't finished, and I didn't like waste. The idea was to send some pictures to my mother in
"Then I saw the possibilities. I started trying different costumes, poses, backdrops. It began as a way of seeing myself grow up, and slowly it became a personal history - as well as art, I suppose. In 1994, there was an exhibition of African photography in
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