Anja Diabaté is an artist based in Hamburg, Germany. She uses Fine Art Photography to transform her concepts and ideas into unique artworks. Her strength and power is the transformation of her ideas and creativity into extremely expressive and soulful photos. Each of her photographs tells a unique story, her aim is always to inspire a viewer to get into depth and reflection. Discover today her unique work and strong personality through this interview.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs, dear Anja.
I live and work in the beautiful harbour city Hamburg, in the north of Germany.
As skilled advertising clerk, I have been working in some agencies before switching to the publishing industry. I was surrounded by creativity all the time but left this professional field behind me to concentrate on my personal art.
I describe myself as an artist who implements creative concepts into fine art photography.
How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
My history influenced me a lot. We all experience a stamping trough our lifetime. Today I show this experiences in form of emotions in my pictures. You can relate it to a puzzle which is getting completed part by part. After all these years, I'm able to express the feelings and emotions that I recognise. You find a part of myself in my pictures all the time.
What first attracted you to photography?
Memories that I wanted to capture attracted me the first. Right after them the emotions. I wanted to capture moments, make them intenser and eternalize them to never loose them.
Describe your overall photographic version.
My photographic version stands for the freedom of art. It marks my work. Trough this, fantasies arise, which are spread out and become part of a the story.
Art is free. This also means that I don´t block myself, to give me full freedom to express myself through my art. I love what I am doing and it gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Why are you so drawn by Artistic Portrait Photography?
It is a combination of feelings, imagination and fascination.
For instance, my series “roots” is about the symbioses of human and animal. Base on the animals, I try to express the essence and bring it to light in an aesthetic way in the form of painting with an intense expression of the model.
Feelings are the key in my photography. No matter which feeling, if one is involved, the picture turns to life. It touches and probably it makes the viewers think about it. The face is so full of facets, the body language, expression of a silent language and they both have a massive power and an effect, to express deepest feelings.
The possibility to tell stories, to present topics that concern me and to highlight them, is very important to me. To put all this in series and in an artistic framework is the pinnacle of creation for me.
What is more important to you, the mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
In any case, the feeling, the mood and the story are essential to me. But without technical know-how no work of art succeeds. That is why it is important to build a good foundation and to be open-minded in order to delve into more intensively with one or another technical topic.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Behind each of my series is a concept. I find everything I need for that, in my pool of requisites or just looking for it on the road or close by. Often it is the other way around too. I see something that captivates me and instantly I see new series in front of me. I work partly with sketches, trying to write down what inspires me and to formulate new ideas.
For me, all life is an inspiration. I find it around me or far away, in thoughts, in books and music, in a word, a gesture or a face, in silence and inner me.
I want to show images which are touching, make the viewer think and feeling engaged.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I work with a Canon 5DSR, a Canon 100 mm lens and a Canon 24 – 70 mm lens.
What software do you use to process your images?
So far, I only work with Lightroom.
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
Everything starts with an accent. This may be an idea that is already in my head or I see something that fascinates me so much that I am also able to shoot in a short time.
A good example of this is the series “the red thread - Part I”. Through this self-portrait shoot, the second part has developed: the series with my oldest son. This resulted in a very personal series showing passages from our lives.
I like authenticity and I can only show it if I really get into the subject and I'm all ready to show my inner self.
Once I used packaging material to create a headgear. The “guardian of the forest” series with my youngest son was created that way. I always have inspiration to create series in which each picture has its own story and can be considered as such, but still in the context of a specific series.
The preparations for the series “the peacock” were intense. Since I do not photomontage, I always have to think in advance exactly how the image has to look according to what I already have in mind. The textures and artistic make-up all are made by myself. Looking closely at the bird, I start spontaneously to paint it on the face of my model with my own brushstroke.
The planning is important, but the willingness to let it flow in a few moments and to give room to the unexpected, provides me the really good pictures.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Artistic Portrait Photography and how do you get started?
I believe that it is very important to believe in yourself and your abilities.
Give your pictures a soul and dare to try something different. Listen to well-founded criticism, be self-critical, be inspired, learn and start.
That is the way I started with Artistic and conceptual photography which are my greatest passion. It is part of my life and it doesn't feel like “work”, but rather as a fulfilment.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
I do not want to commit myself because there are so many admirable photographers. To name a few:
Irving Penn, Man Ray, Peter Lindbergh, Richard Avedon, Lois Greenfeld, Ken Browar, Deborah Ory, Bert Stern, Ragnar Axelsson, Bruce Barnbaum, Sebastião Salgado, Annie Leibovitz, Jingna Zhang, Nixi Killick, Paco Peregrin.
I also are inspired by other forms of art. I am thinking of the great master of pantomime Marcel Marceau or the geniuses Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel, or simply by psychology, theory of colour, poetry, music, the masters of painting and fashion.
It is an interaction with all these areas and I believe that it has a great impact on my art.
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
It is a picture from the series “the red thread - Part II”. I love the whole series and it is difficult for me to make a choice. Nevertheless, I would like to say that this photo covers everything I want to express. It shows love and attachment. The red thread of life is visible and should give reasons to delve deeper into the story and into both the models and yourself.
For me as an artist and photographer, this series has created a new perspective to develop. It opens up a new world in which I find fantasies that I like to show.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
1x is the best professional and international photo community. First class handling, design and source of inspiration.
I am always fascinated with what I see here, fantastic photographers and artists in a large range of photographic categories. It is a real pleasure to delve into the 1x gallery.
Thanks 1x for the appreciation given to me and my work. Thanks dear Yvette for this wonderfully guided interview. A real pleasure to me. I hope that the readers will enjoy as much as I do.