Street Mythologies: Photographer Delphine Diallo

StreetMythologies

Haim for the New Yorker, 2013.

Mengly, 2013.
Interview: Jess Marvin
Editor: Sarah Todd
Photography: Delphine Diallo

For photographer Delphine Diallo, the saying “there is more to life than meets the eye” couldn’t ring truer. Delphine believes that within everyone lurks a “gift”—a kind of aura that transcends our human form. Delphine sees herself not just as a photographer but as a receiver and revealer of each person’s gift. She looks to produce artwork that shifts viewers’ perception of the truth and enables them to see what she calls our “personal mythologies.” AWT sat down with the artist to discuss her latest photographic adventures and browse through her extensive portfolio.

 

AWT: You’ve been taking photographs of young girls recently. How is shooting kids different from shooting adults?

Delphine Diallo: These girls in particular are my neighbor’s kids and I’ve gotten to know them pretty well, since we live so close together. In them I can see the strength of much older women, even at such a young age. At first I couldn’t shoot them because they do whatever they want; they’re kids. As a photographer I want control, but the kids go back to teaching me that photography is about love and trust. If I show them love, they show me their true selves. It’s up to them to give however much they want.

Photography and anthropology go hand in hand. It’s about noticing and feeling your subject’s energy. You can see a guy sleeping on the street and nobody seems to notice, but you can notice. You can understand him—and feel compassion.

Raye 6,
2013.

AWT: Tell me about your time working with American artist and photographer Peter Beard. What did you learn from that experience?

DD: Like Beard, I am obsessed with [other people’s] pictures that don’t belong to me. I’m always collecting them and drawing into them.

AWT: What does collage give you that straight photography doesn’t?

DD: It’s totally subconscious; it is my meditation state. I just let go… the psyche is a universe within collage, it’s like, “Look, this is my mind!” Some people say to me, “Why are you doing so many things Delphine?” And I say, “This is who I am.” Don’t ask me to do one thing. I can do portraits, fashion photography, collage; I am different every time. Sometimes my interventions are very simple, sometimes they are very complicated.

AWT: How about portraits—why do they interest you? Tell me about the energy you feel from a person.

DD: For me, portraits are about mythology. It’s a way of saying, “I think she’s beautiful, let me show you!”

For street photography, New York is the best place to be. In New York people feel you, they like you, they just say yes and the next day they come into your studio. New York is a Babylon. You have to appreciate the diversity and document this new kind of generation. I came to New York because I get in a cab and I know I’m gonna be talking to an Indian, Pakistani, North African, South American—why do you think people from so many places feel at home here?

New York Spirit,
2013.