From the turn of the century until the 1960s, studio portraiture was the most popular and widespread form of photography in sub-Saharan Africa.
The need for identity photos contributed to the proliferation of African photographers, allowing photography to become affordable to the growing middle classes by the 1930s. Through these studio portraits, Africans were able to participate in their own image creation, often using patterned backdrops with regional associations to offset their finest clothing. This photography, from an African point of view, acted as a valuable social and cultural resistance to colonialism. Additionally, the diversity in each photo showed style and individuality, as seen in the subjects' dress, expression, and posture.
Today, the influence of these portraits can be seen in the art, design and fashion worlds. For more information, check out the Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography by Lynne Warren.