Editors Note: Delphine Diallo is a Brooklyn-based French and Senegalese visual artist and photographer. With a focus on portraiture, Diallo combines photography with social activism to empower women, youth, and cultural minorities. Clary Estes interviewed Delphine Diallo about her life, work and vision for Visura Media’s Spotlight series in June 2019. For part III, Clary discusses with Diallo the power of photography and her long term vision as a multidisciplinary artist, photographer, and social activist.Written by Clary Estes
Edited by Adriana Teresa Letorney
The Power of Photography
“My work is not just about my individuality,
I am really trying to put the new vision of women out there.”
Diallo is part of the vanguard of the new photographic school today that through photography works to elevate the voice(s) of individuals and communities who have been labeled or categorized as ‘the other’ by Western culture. Diallo further reflects:
“We don’t really need photographers that can just take good pictures because we have so many of those. What we need is a photographer who is a visionary and someone who can push our consciousness. And if we want more visionary photographers we need people to study other subjects outside of photography. It is a new school.”
As an artist and thinker, Diallo is fearless and assumes the level of commitment and dedication needed to further media literacy by advocating for representation through her work both in the photography industry as well as society as a whole.
“It takes a lot of time to be a good photographer, just like it takes a lot of time to be a visionary or a good writer. It takes years of study and training and learning in different ways from what the [photography] industry will tell you, which is a very superficial view. That very superficial view being you go, photograph, and come back. That is a very empty space and I rebel against that.”
Through her work, Diallo aims to protect, honor and advocate for the eminence of the spirit and soul of women and people of color. A kind of architect, Diallo builds artistic spaces for faces and viewpoints that have been historically overlooked to emphasize the legitimacy, and even supremacy, of the unheard voices.
“My art is not about me. It is so much bigger than me. What I am trying to do is create a space for women to fill and be courageous about their work because we don’t have enough courageous women. We have many, many talented women for sure, but for them to be courageous enough to open up their hearts and their voices are still very hard in society today. It was hard for me at first, but now that I have been doing this for 10-years I feel more confident to speak my voice..."
She continues to say:
"When women of color take our place as change-makers we will find that there is so much to do because our narrative doesn’t exist yet. It’s blank. It is a wide, blank page where black ink is going to write a new story and a new vision of humanity.”
Collage by Delphine Diallo
Delphine Diallo believes that it is the very nature of the divine feminine spirit that she works to interact with artistically that provides her the infinite wellspring of inspiration and nourishment that she needs to persevere in her work. The divine feminine spirit, as Diallo has experienced it, is inherently collaborative; an ever synergistic exchange of energy and inspiration between her and the women she photographs.
“It is the birth of the divine feminine within me (and within all of us) that comes through our families and ancestors, an energy which was once oppressed...I feel the urge within me to stop that oppression. This urge is a part of me. I wake up every morning with this urge within me..."
It was interesting to see how much the feminine energy actually nurtured me and provided me to create my work; and I had this energy all around me for 10 years and after that amount of time I really realizes how much having women around me helped my work and how much of the women in my life I put it into my work.”
Diallo thinks it is key to understand the importance of interconnectedness and integrating the masculine with the feminine, those with power to those without power, the traditional and the modern, and sewing opposing forces together so that real and significant change can come about.
Left: Self-portrait by Delphine Diallo; Right: Self-portrait by Peter Beard
According to Diallo, the photography industry faces concerning challenges that affect everyone, not just women. She explains:
"It is the fact that men don’t stand up to the patriarchal eye of photography today that is controlling the vision and the way that work is being made. This is something that as an artist or even as a visual maker, everyone is concerned about, both male and female alike..."
She goes on to explain:
“(how) for the last 40 to 50 years we’ve had so many photographers go and take beautiful, painterly pictures of poor people and then leave them behind and this is wrong. If you were to go back and show these pictures to the subjects they wouldn’t necessarily see themselves in the picture. They would be disconnected from themselves. This is an extremely important matter and it is not being discussed by photo editors or big publishing companies and it needs to be…”
[As a photographer] you have to take care of your subjects too, not just take beautiful pictures and leave. There has to be some kind of exchange between the photographer and the subject. It can be a meal shared that day, it can be following up with that sole to see how she is doing, it can be anything, but there has to be an exchange.”
So ultimately, as a multidisciplinary artist, Diallo is trying to connect with the power of your inner soul to show its infinite possibilities through photography. Diallo is very aware that none of her photography work matters unless she herself stays true to her vision by continuously connecting with her own creative and spiritual potential, as well as with, every woman she photographs. As Diallo’s work continues to develop, it will be exciting to see just how complex and interwoven her imagery and her community become.
Written by Clary Estes
Edited by Adriana Teresa Letorney