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Interview with Delphine Diallo in Arles

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"Golden Age" by Delphine Diallo

Some of the photographs in the exhibition were printed on Fuji Crystal DP II paper and laminated onto Alu-Dibond - and then framed with an solid floater frame.

Golden Age by Delphine Diallo

The series featuring African masks was printed on photographic paper, laminated onto Alu-Dibond and framed in an Artbox - a solid wooden frame, characterised by its depth.

Delphine Diallo, Photographer & Visual Artist

Delphine Diallo is a Brooklyn-based French and Senegalese visual artist and photographer.  Diallo combines artistry with activism, pushing the many possibilities of empowering women, youth, and cultural minorities through visual provocation. Diallo uses analog, digital photography and collages  as she continues to explore new mediums. She is working towards creating new dimensions and a place where consciousness and art are a universal language by connecting artists, sharing ideas and learning. We had the chance to realize the exhibition of Delphine Diallo presented in Arles all summer in the Fisheye Gallery and to discuss with the artist, especially on the exhibition but also in general on his work. Discover below the interview.

"Taking a stand on issues in society is for me the interest and importance of my work."

Delphine, how did you start with photography?

I have a background in graphic design and I have worked as an art director, including in a special effects production company, in music production and on various commercial projects. This helped me to develop my visual world and to understand what exactly it is that catches people's attention.

Your work could be considered activism in photography. How and when did you first experience the impact that your photography has?

What I find interesting and important in my work is taking a stand on societal issues. Without this vision, or direction perhaps, I wouldn't be able to do the work that I do. The idea behind it is to change the representation and perception of the woman, moving away from the image of objectification that has until now been conveyed by the photography industry. In this way, I define myself as an activist.

I've already been able to see the effect of my work on the public in Arles. A lot of women come to see me and take the time to talk. My work starts a conversation among women and within society as a whole about presenting women differently. It's a very positive thing.

You once said in an interview, "I don't take photos, I give photos". How much time do you dedicate to a portrait session? Do you have a routine to make your subject feel comfortable?

My method for creating portraits is that it all happens at my home in my studio. I invite a woman to come and offer her a tea, some fruit or some flowers to create a comfortable atmosphere. Once she settles in, I ask her some questions about her life, make her feel confident, and give her the space to express herself. We spend more time talking than we do taking photos. That's my technique. The photo is the end result of a moment I've spent in her light. After we finish talking, I ask her if she's ready and if she's okay with me taking photos of her. Then I return to her the light that she entrusted to me.

You still take photos using film, is that true? What is your reason for doing this? Is the approach different or is it more for the look?

I've stuck with film for a long time because of the quality of the results and the unique feelings that it gives. I wanted to control this digital world that sometimes feels too colorful, too bright and too complex. That's why I kept using black and white for a while. I've finally developed my own techniques for creating the same feelings with digital photography. Now I use both the old and new mediums that are available to me, both analog and digital, photography and collage.

How might the artifacts you used in the "Golden Age" exhibition have changed the way you created the portraits?

There's a lot of freedom in my work. I decided to play with the mask, no matter what its history. The game is in reclaiming it, I didn't necessarily need to know how it used to be used. I left some room to play with reinterpretation.

The objects make reference to a rite of passage, in particular that from adolescence into adulthood, is that correct? What connection do you see between this transition and women's history?

The rite of passage is very important in the African tradition. It starts at birth when the child arrives in the physical world, and usually we shave their head, bathe them, give them gris-gris talismans to wear and protect them. In adolescence, we make sure that girls and boys are prepared to take on the responsibilities that will come with their transition into adulthood. A new responsibility comes at each stage. We have lost these traditions in our western society. The rite of passage symbolizes a transition to another state of consciousness. I move them beyond the weapon in my work: the rite of passage of the archetype of the woman-warrior that is in me. This is to say that it's a force that makes me express myself in a certain way that corresponds with my identity, as a woman and not as a teenager. Today, I've accepted the responsibility of being a woman and I have a history with myself and the history of my ancestors that I bear. A rite of passage implies a responsibility to both the past and the present, to develop a positive future for all of humanity. My role as a woman-warrior is to visually tell the story of the African woman, or the woman of African descent. I feel that I was born to do this. The rite of passage helps us accept who we are.

Salomé d'Ornano, Director of the Fisheye Gallery

Salomé d'Ornano is the director of the Fisheye Gallery in Arles and in Paris. In the interview, the art and photography enthusiast shares her experiences with us, explains what the Rencontres d'Arles means to the international photography scene and tells us why she chose to exhibit the work of Delphine Diallo during the Rencontres this summer. Finally, Salomé d'Ornano, who lives in Paris and is regularly traveling for international art photography events, shares her favorite artists and exhibitions that she has discovered this year.

Read the interview

Portrait of Salomé d'Ornano.

Find the products selected for the exhibition

Solid Wood ArtBox
  • 3D Effect

  • Easy to hang: All you need is two nails or screws (depending on the size)

  • Displayed on a gallery ledge: Elegant and impressive

Close up of the image of a white horse jumping in a desert landscape framed in a Floater Frame.
Floater Frame
  • Powerful gap between picture and frame

  • For photos under acrylic or on aluminum

Close up of the image of three boats reflected on the calm sea surface, while in the background is a skyline on a Photo Print On Aluminum Backing.
Original Photo Print On Aluminium Dibond
  • Real photographic print with purist mounting

  • Glossy or matte seal