I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you *

Dany Be wanted Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World to be played in his honor on the day he passed away. One of his favorite songs, he wanted this popular ballad by the American jazzman to be associated with his memory.

Recorded in 1967, this song sounded at the time like a peaceful and optimistic poem dedicated to life, at a time when the world was teetering on the brink of social and racial tensions, the morass of political ideologies and the ravages of armed conflict.

The image suggested by this song—that we share a common destiny in the face of all forms of threat—resonates with Dany Be’s vision of the world in general, and Malagasy society in particular.

Throughout his life, he had been a force of character—a mixture of courage, audacity and intransigence—when the context and the situation called for it.

In 1947, he witnessed the arrest of his father, founder of the newspaper La Grande Île, by the authorities and scenes of humiliation and violence when he visited him in prison.

Between 1955 and 1956, during his military service in the French Army, he was outraged by the humiliating attitude of one of his superiors who photographed the misery of the Malagasy population. The feeling of indignation caused very early on by these striking situations was to give Dany Be an aversion to all acts of repression and injustice. At the same time, it also drove him towards photography, with the desire to represent his island and its inhabitants in his own way.

From 1957, his interest in photography was gradually confirmed: Dany Be joined the Select Photo studio in Antsirabe, while working for himself on journalistic reports with a camera borrowed from his brother. In 1959, he found a job as a photojournalist with the newspaper Madagascar Dimanche.

Like his fellow photographers, Dany Be never studied journalism, however he became one of the front-runners of the field. He learned his trade on the job, in contact with his colleagues and other press professionals. He perfected his skills by travelling all across Madagascar and all over the world—from Africa to Asia and from Europe to Latin America.

So, he became one of the leading figures of Malagasy photography in the first decades of the Independence.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, his talent, reliability and integrity were recognized. The esteem of his peers was fueled by the respect he had himself for photojournalism and what he saw as its profound vocation: to take a committed look at the world. He was convinced of the impact of press images on public opinion, and he hoped that people’s awareness of a situation could evolve into a collective consciousness.

Conversely, any situation that has not been illustrated by images does not exist. All photojournalists share this same point of view, may it be war or a reality that would not have had a name without the committed work of photographers around the world. The example of the fight against Apartheid in South Africa, whose images were there to bear witness, is revealing of this political role.

Press images were rare at this time. We had to wait until the 2000s, with the global spread of the Internet and digital technology, which multiplied them ad infinitum, making them ordinary and obvious, whereas in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s—to take the years of Dany Be’s activity—they required a real commitment, both human and material (cameras, film, processing to reveal them and enlarge the images on paper was very expensive and not affordable to everyone).

From the beginning, Dany Be never hesitated to investigate, to go to the front in the exercise of his job as a photojournalist. He took risks that led to complications: conflicts with the police, arrests and imprisonment under almost every regime, his dismissal from the newspaper Le Courrier de Madagascar in 1971, and last but not least, the confiscation of his archives covering the ’60s and ’70s by the censorship police in 1983—around two thousand rolls of film that he never found again.

This exhibition shows 127 images by the photographer, most of them are unpublished. We have chosen not to dissociate Dany Be’s professional job as a journalist from his photographic work, but rather to draw parallels between these two aspects of his work.

Some series of images refer directly to specific contexts and fields, such as politics, social issues, sport or leisure; others are the expression of the photographer’s view of different places and spaces, situations and contexts, across the Island. Taken in both urban and rural areas, and even in isolated regions.

Dany Be’s photographs often reflect his sense of closeness with his surroundings.
In the expression of a humanist aesthetic, he captured moments and everyday life, taking portraits of people he knew or he came across anonymously and by chance.
Or simply put, he captured the spirit of his time.

Dany Be’s images rewind time by several decades. They take us back to major historical events which have punctuated the political, economic, social and cultural journey of Madagascar since the Independence in 1960. Above all, Dany Be’s extensive professional network enabled him to be at the heart of the action during periods of protest, change and transition.

Finally, combined with his personal story—marked by the ups and downs of his profession as a photo journalist—the photographs, whose aesthetic can be linked to the great currents of humanist photography, as we have just mentioned, show that Dany Be’s destiny walked hand in hand with the destiny of his country in many periods, thus making him an exceptional witness to Malagasy history.

Dany Be was already aware that the younger generations of his time were not familiar with Madagascar’s modern history. Along with his fight for freedom of opinion and expression, passing on knowledge to young people was one of his main concerns, particularly in the middle of his life. He was also one of the main driving forces behind the professional life of Malagasy photographers. With Revue Noire, he undertook to produce the first works on the history of Malagasy photography with Pierrot Men and Emile Rakotondrazaka (known as Ramily) at the end of the 1990s.

We would like to thank Dany Be’s family for their trust and active support, without who this exhibition would not have been possible. By highlighting Dany Be’s artistic, social and political commitment, we are attempting to pay the first major tribute to his photographic work.

Rina Ralay-Ranaivo . Jean Loup Pivin
April 2024

* Excerpt from the song « What a Wonderful World »
Louis Armstrong . ABC Records . 1967
Lyrics and music by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele

FROM MAY 4 . 2024
TO OCTOBER 26 . 2024

The first monographic exhibition of Daniel Rakotoseheno also known as Dany Be (1935-2021), a pioneer of photojournalism in Madagascar.

Curated by
Rina Ralay-Ranaivo and Jean Loup Pivin
in collaboration with Rado Rakotoseheno

Alhambra Gallery . Level 2
Ankadimbahoaka . Antananarivo