Jean Depara

Angola / Congo (1928–1997). Depara was introduced to the photographic art in a very curious way. To register his wedding in 1950, he bought a small Adox camera and never stopped taking photos. In 1954 the famous singer Zairiano, Franco, invited him to become his official photographer, launching Depara’s career as a chronicler of the busy social life in Kinshasa. He opened his studio, Jean Whisky Depara, in Kinshasa, working there until 1956 making portraits, family photographies and celebrations. Fascinated by the effervescent night life in Kinshasa, Depara captured with flashes an Africa destitute of conventional social codes. Interracial marriages, hipsters, and those that, imitating James Dean, have chosen to “live fast, die young”, have become his clients. 

From 1975 to 1989, with 50 years, he become the Parliament’s official photographer. Retires in 1989 to devote himself to fishing and build small fishing pirogues boats. Dies in 1997, in Kinshasa, with 69 years, leaving more than 5000 photographies untitled, registering exiting and carefree times, when Kinshasa was the vibrant and fool heart of all Africa - “Kin-alegria, Kin-loucura”, as the novelist Achilles Ngove says. With the artist family permission, his great friend Oscar Mbemba titled the works in ways to adapt the spirit of times. 

Among his main exhibitions one can reference:  “Depara Centre de la Photographie”, Geneva, Switzerland, 2002, “4th Meeting for African Photography, Bamako”, Mali, 2001; “Noorderlicht 2000 photofestival”, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, Holland, 2000; “100% Africa”, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, 2006/2007; “Africa: Past-Present – Seydou Keita, P.K. Apagya, Depara, C.A. Azaglo and Ojeikere, Fifty One Fine Art Photography”, Antwerp, Belgium, 2000.