Archives of the studio Photo George, Douala (Cameroon)

The studio Photo George preserves a photo archive of one of the most prolific photographers (George Goethe 1896-1977) to ever be active in Cameroon. The partnership between APHI and the studio Photo George, which started in 2012, has the aim of digitizing and preserving the photographs. The project has been supported by the Cultural Emergency Response programme of the Prince Claus Fund.
George Goethe (born 1897 in Freetown, Sierra Leone; died 1977 in Douala, Cameroon) opened his studio in 1931. His son Cyrille Douala Goethe kept it going along with several employees until early 2000. For 30 years, Cyrille was the official photographer of the most important companies in Douala. The studio also took portraits of many of the Douala society, its photographers went out to cover marriages, cry days and other important moments in a person's or family's biography. Not least, the studio re-photographed old and faded images images, reunited couples in one photograph where before only two had existed in the family album and enlarged passport photographs to sizes appropriate to be mounted in a parlour.

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Emergency project in the photo archive of the Goethe family

Supported by the Prince Claus Fund's Cultural Emergency Response Programme, African Photography Initiatives (APhI) recovered in 2014 and 2015 this historical archive. The exhibition Portrait d'un Studio took place at doual'Art in February 2016 to close the operational phase in Cameroon.

Project outcome: rescue of approximately 50,000 negatives and 1,300 printsfrom the monsoon rains, while the roof was replaced on the studio. Material that had been damaged beyond repair was disposed of and what could be rescued was cleaned, with dust and metal clips removed from the photos. This material was then sorted and placed in new storage units purchased for this purpose. Furthermore, 6,000 of these negatives and prints were digitised and have been made available for future research by APHI.

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A selection of George Goethe photographs published as post cards is avalilable online

Douala Main Shop Staff Dec 1923

Goethe George in centre, Moses on left, Lharway on right, 2 shopboys at the back.

Photo reproduced with permission from Liverpool Record Office, Liverpool Libraries.