The gift that is not ours to squander: Delphine Diallo reveals new icons and indomitable spirit Thursday 04 December, 2014

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The drama, layers and coherence of Delphine Diallo’s photography could lead you to believe the photos were meticulously planned and laboriously edited. But that’s not the case. The real effort goes into her own personal and spiritual growth, which Diallo says shapes all of her work, ‘Most of my shoots are intuitive and they can’t […]

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The drama, layers and coherence of Delphine Diallo’s photography could lead you to believe the photos were meticulously planned and laboriously edited. But that’s not the case. The real effort goes into her own personal and spiritual growth, which Diallo says shapes all of her work, ‘Most of my shoots are intuitive and they can’t take too long. It’s like an experience… The spirituality I’m receiving is very high energy; when I feel it is disappearing, I stop. The entire work is based on a spiritual moment – I catch it.’

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Diallo’s Bushwick studio and home – an inviting, art-filled space – feel like an extension of the woman. Wearing a plain white tank, skinny jeans and a backwards baseball cap, she looks perfectly comfortable in her own skin and spacious apartment. Classic hip hop plays in the background from Method Man’s I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By to De La Soul’s’ Stakes Is High.

As we discuss her art, particularly the photography catalogued in her photo book, The Gift, Diallo explains how themes of womanhood, racial diversity and spirituality came to be so central to her aim of ‘creating new icons’ and ‘spurring social change’ with images.

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Smiling, she shows me a photo of her aged 31 on an elephant in Botswana, ‘I love the fact that everyone was like, “This is retouched, right?”’ The legendary Peter Beard had invited her on the trip as a model and assistant. She praises Beard as a mentor who ‘gave me the strength to find who I was to become’ and inspired her to show a different view of womanhood than the one she saw expressed in his work. Diallo recalls, ‘I understood his vision of black women being among the most beautiful women in the world. “Living sculptures,” he called them… But, I was like, “I’m a woman and I don’t want to be just an object of phantasm for white men… Africa is not just full of living sculptures of black women. They are proud and strong and they are ready to be women.”’ Beard challenged her, ‘If you disagree, then show me.’ The photograph of her eleven-year-old Senegalese muse, Indi, is in homage to Beard.

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The Botswana trip inspired her ‘to create a new vision of women through my own eyes’. Her perspective reflects women’s individual complexity, strength and vulnerability, as well as their diversity. Calm and reserved throughout our conversation, Diallo becomes animated when explaining the importance of showing the connection a woman has with her body, rather than simply reducing women to bodies. ‘When [will] people finally get inspired and respect their bodies differently? You have Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé, but I’d like women to express their own version of beauty in a man’s world. Instead of showing who you are superficially, show me who you are inside. Not just selfies.’

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Read the full article on TRUE

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Written by Kathryn Buford

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