“New Orleans, often referred to as the most unique city in the USA, is well-known for its appreciation of jazz music, arts, Mardi Gras and cuisine. In the same breath, Hurricane Katrina and more recently, police brutality come to mind when matching words to the city,” says local photographer Deji Dada.
His series of images, 35 mm Conversations with Nola, attempts to highlight ordinary beauty that’s overlooked in tumultuous times. Deji says that photography enables him to tell stories without having to speak to people and since picking up a camera five years ago, doesn’t travel anywhere without taking it along with him.
We chat to the photographer about his series, the art of creating ‘durable images’, and photographing built environments.
On your Tumblr account you mention, “The art of creating durable images”. What are some of the challenges presented by this manifesto?
From one point of view, one could say that I was just trying to be a seventeen year-old smart-arse when I first made that Tumblr title. From another, I commend my past self for foreseeing my transition from digital to that of film photography and creating durable images.
This particular series captures New Orleans. Did viewing the city behind a lens alter any perceptions you might have had before you began documenting it?
I tend to have a bad habit of always carrying one of my cameras around – especially when I travel – but then not making use of them as much as I would like to. When I travelled to New Orleans, with 10 various types of 35mm film (of which I only end up using four – my bad habits prevailed), I found myself struggling to focus on what to document. New Orleans has a vibrant ADHD sway. As you begin to focus, something always catches your eye from its peripherals. I guess upon arrival, I believed that it wouldn’t have been as difficult to document what I wanted to as it was.
When it comes to light and texture, what surprised you most about New Orleans in comparison to say, for example, places like San Francisco or Braamfontein which you’ve also photographed?
All three cities are beautiful and unique in their own ways. Certain aspects of them can’t truly be felt via imagery. I like to refer to San Francisco as the Cape Town of America; with its cool breezes and edgy hills and mountains. Braamfontein falls into its own vibrant category; a wondrous suburb filled with youthful bursts of tomorrow’s arts and innovation. Finally New Orleans, a warm, swamped suburbia endorsed by the scents and sounds of daiquiris and jazz.
You tend to capture textured landscapes rather than portraiture. What compels you to photograph architecture and build environments?
People are difficult. At least landscapes are ready to pose all of the time. We’re a generation that has learned to live behind LCD screens and keyboards. I am one of the lucky few that gets the opportunity to see the world bi-yearly, so I feel it is within this ‘travel description’ that it’s necessary to show of the world. Shooting built environments and landscapes enables me to capture monuments that will not fade away like the little details in the fast-paced lives we live. People take the beauty of landscapes for granted.
How does perspective play a role in your images?
Though perspective plays an important role in photography, I don’t think there is a right way to take a ‘good photo’. I feel that it’s not necessarily all about the way perspective plays out in the photo, it’s how you feel while you’re taking the photo. I don’t have a certain technique to get my artistic point across, it all comes to mind in the moment. Thus, perspective plays a continuously changing role in my photography.
What do you hope to achieve through the medium of photography?
I just wish to tell stories and envelop others’ imaginations. Planting a seed in a person’s mind that enables them to make a change through their favoured medium without second guessing it.