With her dreamlike self-portraits, Djeneba Aduayom seeks to create an escape from reality


Djeneba Aduayom has always been a dreamer. Once a professional dancer, she started taking photographs in 2011 as a creative outlet after serious injuries threatened her dance career. “Taking photographs allowed me to dive into a world within the world,” Aduayom recently told In Sight.

Before moving to Paris and later Southern California, Aduayom grew up by the sea in Africa, and she has drawn on her cultural mix and heritage for inspiration. “All of this is a part of me. I am the sum of a mishmash of all,” she said.

That “me,” and all its complexity, is strikingly apparent and alluring in Aduayom’s latest work, “Self-portraits,” which feature the photographer in a variety of elegant poses with household objects as props. Aduayom, who, like so many of us, has been confined to her home for much of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic, produced the work there.

Fighting a strong desire to escape, Aduayom said, she has coped under quarantine by adapting her creative skills.

“I had to utilize what is already readily available to me,” she said. “During this unique moment of daily solitude and reflection, I have found myself getting lost in self-portraiture, developing a new language of internal expression.”

By looking inward, Aduayom’s gorgeous and eccentric series beautifully balances her despair with hope. Her ability to embrace the stillness the world is experiencing, as well as its turbulence, is breathtaking.

In creating the work, Aduayom said, learning to articulate her creative ideas and various emotions in a visual abstraction was a challenge. She aimed to create an alternate universe within the confines of her imagination, while staying home. The photographer said she hopes that her images will resonate with others and that through her work they, too, “will allow themselves to be transported to another place and access their own dreaming part of themselves."

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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