A few months ago, we showcased Parisian photographer Alun Be’s captivating and thought-provoking photo series ‘Empowering the Women of Senegal’. The series which showcased at Expo Milano in Italy, shed light on some of Senegal’s most influential women.
Alun B is qualified architect and a self-taught photographer hailing from Dakar, Senegal. We spoke to Alun Be to learn more about the project and his influences.
What is the ‘Empowering the Women of Senegal’ series about and what inspired you to create this project?
The ‘Empowering the Women of Senegal’ is a project that came to life through the UN women and the Italian cooperation. They are both very present in the continent of Africa and they selected a group of entrepreneurs women with inspiring stories, and those women were taken to Milan Italy in order to tell their story at the UN pavilion at the world expo 2015. I am a portrait and street photographer, and I am fascinated by the charisma and the stories that one’s face can tell. I was chosen to tell the story of those women through photography.
Is there a reason why you decided to focus specifically on the women of Senegal?
It was a commissioned work, so I did not get to choose who I would photographe. But the women of Senegal were the perfect subject for this project, because they were lionesses, fighters.
Who are the women in the photographs? Are they people we should know?
As I was working with those women, I had the privilege to hear their story in a very intimate setting. Some of them were very poor and suffered a lot. but they are all successful today, running big companies with many employees. I firmly believe that those women are the perfect inspiration for a better Africa, therefore I want to share their stories as much as I can.
You recently exhibited your work at the UN Pavillion in Milan, What has been the general response to the series?
I think people were pretty astonished to discover those women from this angle, so to me is was successful in a sense that we manage to catch their attention. But I am more curious to see how people in Senegal will react to this series once I will exhibit my work to the general public in Dakar, which should be soon.
There are different narratives in the way Africa is portrayed in the media. Do you place any importance on how you represent the continent when you set out to do a project?
I don’t want to fake it, just like any other place on the planets there is some good things and bad things about Africa. What’s important to me is that whatever my photography convey, it must remain constructive, meaning moving forward is my priority. It’s not always easy but it’s possible.
Are there any photographers that have influenced the way you work?
Robert Doisneau, a French photographer, one of the pioneers of photojournalism in the 1930s. I’m also very fond of the work of Peter Hurley, a New York based headshot photographer, specially in the way that he use psychology and photography together; he calls it psyphotology.
What other projects can we look forward to seeing from you?
I have a few projects in construction in Africa, France, China, and in San Francisco. I focus on social and urban issues mostly. Right now I working on gentrification from a photography point of view. I hope to share those projects soon…
How can our readers learn more about your work?
My website is a good way to see some of my work (www.alunbe.com) , but I post more photos on my Facebook page you can look me up by typing “alun be” on Facebook.