Interview of French Photographer Safia Delta

This is an interview with Safia Delta, a photographer from South of France. Safia began taking photos roughly two years ago in order to express herself and give an outlet to her artistic spirits. She learnt the basics of the medium on her own and by observing works of friend photographers. Her photography has a documentary appeal and she attempts to give an alternative meaning to images of people, places and things she comes across. More on her works in her words below:

Please tell me about yourself. Why did you use the term “ways2art-photography” as a web address for your website against the more practical approach of using you name?

Being an art lover, when I started my website, it was initially intended to be a blog about cultural events in Paris. To illustrate my experiences of exhibitions I bought a camera and started shooting in museums but I kept on using it in the streets when I was out. This is how taking pictures started but I’ve always been attracted to visual languages, especially advertising, painting and contemporary art.

safia_delta_1How did you get into photography? Do you ever regret not having it studied as a subject in any academy or institute?

Even though at one point I was interested in art schools I don’t regret my choices. I studied linguistics, British and American literature and civilization for 4 years at the university before I became a teacher in junior and high school.

I believe self-education and determination are powerful tools. It takes more than a degree to be a good photographer, when it comes to visual arts, there are no rules. I believe in nurturing sensitivity and practising self-education.

safia_delta_2While searching about you, I found about your relationship with music. Tell me more about it:

I’ve always felt the need to express myself through an artistic activity and singing was something I grew up with. I never had any formal musical education though so I learned by doing and was greatly helped by the musicians I met. With photography it was the same process, I learnt on my own and with the help of people who became friends.

Though I stopped singing I’m still in love with music, especially jazz, hip hop and soul.

safia_delta_3What is your statement as a photographer and how did you become a street photographer?

Street photography was the most accessible form of photography to me and my interest to how people live and interact made it natural. But after a year of shooting street I felt at odds with that growing popular genre. I think its stress on formal, anecdotic or sensationalist aspects of photography makes it too limiting. And I never was a big fan of isolated shots.

I prefer narratives and documentary photography. Today though part of my pictures are taken in the street they serve other purposes. I don’t consider myself a street photographer anymore. I’ve been closer to documentary photography, especially personal and social documentary. I want my photography to make sense for me and for others. Form is important but it has to be consistent with the content. The other reason why I take pictures is to record beauty and visually define my own definition of it.

safia_delta_4What are your methods or critical approaches of shooting? Do you believe you’ve found your style or signature?

I’m still a young photographer. I started photography about a year and a half ago. I consider myself on the way to finding my own language but since I started shooting my pictures have already evolved.

For instance, at the beginning I used to hide and shoot from the hip a lot, then I stopped hiding but kept on taking people’s pictures without their consent and today I ask for permission before I shoot someone. I don’t want to steal people’s picture, I want them to work with me and see what they can give and listen to what they have to say. My shooting method has changed a lot, now I present my project before taking a single picture. Talking and agreeing to a respectful deal has become part of my photographic process.

safia_delta_6Tell me about your various photo projects. What does your series ‘Home is a foreign country’ signify? What are attempting to achieve in your ongoing series ‘Memory’?

‘Home is a Foreign Country’ is an old project, it tells about my relationship to my hometown and my growing feeling of estrangement as I left it and came back to visit family. I gave it a poetic form, with unrealistic hues of blue because with photography you suddenly have the choice and power to twist reality to your will and make it appear like you see things at one point.

‘Memory’ is another personal documentary in the continuity of the previous one but this time it aims at recording my relationship to space and how it slowly builds our own memory. How does a new city become a familiar place? By what process do we feel ourselves comfortable in a place that first appears foreign? In the whole series, I confront pictures taken in the suburbs of Paris where I live with the pictures I have taken in my hometown during the summer holidays.

safia_delta_7Tell me about the cameras and lenses you mostly use:

I use both analog and digital but I tend to prefer analog for the slowness and peacefulness of the process and the unique feel of colour film. But since it’s expensive I keep on shooting digital with an Olympus OMD10 or 5 with the 17 or the 25mm lens. When I shoot analog I use a Contax G1 with either a 28 or a 45mm lens. I also like the lightness and toy like aspect of the Olympus Mju II. I exclusively use color film, in particular, Kodak films but I also like Fuji Superia 200 a lot.

safia_delta_8What do you think about contemporary photography (focusing more on street photography)?

I believe there are different trends in SP nowadays, we can see it through the groups flourishing in Flickr and Facebook. There is plenty of talent but works tend to lack consistency. I also regret the way people’s image is used in street photography. I’ve come to a point when some photographer’s relationship to the people they shoot makes me ill at ease.

I’m more interested in documentary photography, personal narratives and conceptual photography.

safia_delta_9Tell me about your achievements, publications etc.:

This year, two of my pictures have been published in a street photography book and one of them was exhibited in an art gallery in Hamburg last June. But since that part of my work was transitory the picture isn’t even featured in my website, you’ll only find a small post about it in the ‘About’ section.

Concerning more recent work, some has been published in an online zine called Positive mag and one of my favourite pictures of the year taken in Mexico has been published in the online selection of the French magazine Epic Stories. I am very happy with this one.

safia_delta_10What are your future plans/projects, ambitions, aspirations etc.?

I’m currently working on a documentary project revolving around the theme of solitude and how it takes form in our society. I’m interested in observing how people around me cope with it in a digital era. Portrayal will be an important part of it. Getting intimate with people is a key element of these projects. They are taking time and energy but I hope to give something to the people I photograph. Though the subject may touch to difficult episodes in their lives, I hope it’ll be a positive experience for them in the end.

I also have a project about dancers but I can’t say more about it, I’m only starting it and I’m a bit superstitious but I’m already enjoying myself a lot with this work.

safia_delta_11Share your favorite stuff: photographers, quotes, films, books, music etc.:

I’m fond of American culture from Edward Hopper to Pop Art. I’m also a big fan of American cinema in particular thrillers or series. I also love the author film industry. I’m actually quite eclectic in my tastes. As for photography I’m interested in the works of William Eggleston, Harry Gruyaert, Alec Soth, Graeme Williams, Sophie Green, Paul D’Amato and many others I forget.

safia_delta_12Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers:

Trust yourself, avoid looking at too many pictures on social networks, take the time to ask yourself what you like, what you feel attracted to, what meaning you are giving to photography and what function it has in your life. To finish, live fully with no regrets. There is no better teacher than life itself. It takes humanity and sensitivity to grow as a photographer.

safia_delta_13All photos © Safia Delta : Website | Facebook | Instagram

About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.

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