Senegalese Photographer Documents Next Generation Of African Creatives

Omar Victor Diop gives a talk at the High Museum’s Hill Auditorium on Friday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m.

Omar Victor Diop

When Americans think of Africa, we are likely to envision a very specific set of images, like lions hunting on the Serengeti, or a herd of elephants grazing in vast grasslands.

The High Museum is hosting a massive touring exhibit that puts a human face to a continent of diverse cultures, countries and peoples.

“Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design” features works by more than 120 artists and designers from 22 countries. On “City Lights,” Lois Reitzes spoke with Omar Victor Diop, a Senegalese artist and photographer whose work is featured in the “Making Africa” exhibit.

Diop spoke to the tradition of his own specialty, portrait photography, in his native country. After Europeans introduced the medium, locals established their own commercial, neighborhood studios. Diop said that when you go into many Senegalese and West African homes, “the first thing that is handed to you, after a glass of water, is the family album, with these fabulous portraits from the last century and every special occasion.”

Diop said he felt the need to continue this tradition, especially in his projects like “The Studio of Vanities,” in which he documents his young, urban and artistically-inclined contemporaries – it’s a side of Africa he said is “underrepresented in international media.”

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design,” featuring selections from Omar Victor Diop’s “The Studio of Vanities,” is on view now through Jan. 7, 2018 at the High Museum of Art.