Senegal’s Lone Film Developer Looks to Revive Analog Photography

DAKAR (Reuters) — From a concrete jetty on Dakar’s sunbaked coastline, Senegalese photographer Amy Saar clicked the shutter of her vintage Pentax camera, capturing the light of the horizon on color film purchased from the country’s only developer.

“Dakar looks great with certain colored films, because they really bring out the warm, vibrant colors,” Saar said, loading a fresh roll into the camera. “Film can be really great in Africa, because in general it’s sunny [and] very colorful.”

Saar is part of a growing resurgence of analog photography enthusiasts in Senegal, nurtured by Le Sel studio in the capital’s Ouakam neighborhood.

Founded two years ago in owner Kevin Aubert’s apartment, Senegal’s only studio of its kind aims to rekindle the country’s love for the craft through film sales and workshops.

After decades of dwindling interest, the global market for film cameras and equipment is expected to grow nearly 4% through 2029, according to a study published by Precision Reports in May.

Limited access to film and darkroom spaces have hindered African photographers’ ability to participate in film’s global resurgence, despite the craft having played a significant role in the region’s post-colonial artistic history.

Le Sel’s mission is not just to develop film, Aubert said, but to educate photographers about the origins of the medium, and show that understanding the analog process can enhance their digital expertise.

“When they see the image they shot themselves appearing for the first time, it is always a treat,” Aubert said as he led a workshop. “It teaches us a lot about the image, the way to look at it, and the way to manage it.”

Aubert hopes to expand Le Sel into a larger space to house more workshops, exhibits, and even an in-house gallery. In the meantime, local photographers like Eva Diallo are already showing works developed there at some of Dakar’s most prestigious art houses.

“The film process is much more conscious than digital or iPhone photos,” Diallo said during her solo exhibition at Dakar’s Gallerie Cecile Fakhoury. “It’s important to be aware during the time it takes, from the moment you take the image … and the moment you have it on paper.”