Omar Victor Diop

Omar Victor Diop, “A Moroccan Man (1913)”, 2014, Self-Portrait from the “Diaspora” Series

Senegalese self-taught photographer Omar Victor Diop’s portraits capture the diversity of modern African societies through the portraiture of its inhabitants by layering genres, color, and patterns to create stunningly vivid imagery. Grounding his practice in his childhood experiences in Dakar, Diop sites influences ranging from American popular culture to Arabic music.

Diop’s first conceptual project “Fashion 2112, The Future of Beauty”, featured at the Pan African Exhibition of the African Biennale of Photography of 2011 in Bamako, gained rapid recognition, which led him to committing to photography exclusively. In his series ” Studio of the Vanities”, he captures the young entrepreneurs of Africa’s urban culture, including fashion designers, visual artists, and models. Diop thoughtfully selects the backdrops, patterns, and apparel to emphasize his model’s personality and cultural attributions, while also collaborating with the subject on these decisions to portray an accurate portrait of their individuality.

Omar Victor Diop’s “Project Diaspora” is a series of elaborately stage portraits of himself in various historical guises. These are based on actual paintings form the 15th to the 19th centuries, but also refer to the contemporary world, even the world of football. The image above was based on an original 1913 painting by Catalan painter and watercolorist José Taprió y Baró, a close friend of painter Marià Fortuny with whom Baró shared an interest in Orientalism.

“It started with me wanting to look at these historical black figures who did not fulfil the usual expectations of the African diaspora insofar as they were educated, stylish and confident, even if some of them were owned by white people and treated as the exotic other. Individuals such as Albert Badin, a Swedish court servant in the 18th century or Juan de Pareja, who was a member of Velázquez’s household in the 17th century. I wanted to bring these rich historical characters into the current conversation about the African diaspora and contemporary issues around immigration, integration and acceptance.” -Omar Victor Diop, The Guardian, 2015

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