Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou

The son of Benin’s best-known photographer Joseph Moise Agbodjelou, Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou photographs the people of his hometown—the thriving port city of Porto-Novo, caught between tradition and modern influences. Drawing subjects from street life, friends, family, and studio customers, Agbodjelou produces carefully composed portraits of individuals in interior spaces, standing in brightly colored, traditional Yoruba costumes against mud brick walls. In his “Demoiselles de Porto-Novo” series—which addresses art history through its triptych formats and titular references to Picasso—he focuses on the young female citizens of Porto-Novo, often capturing them in ceremonial or Vodun masks. Images such as Untitled Triptych (from the series Demoiselles de Porto-Novo) (2012), feature Portuguese-style colonial buildings, which point to the city’s historical role as a gateway for the colonial slave trade with Brazil. Agbodjelou recently opened Benin’s first photography school and was appointed president of the Photographer's Association of Porto-Novo.