#queerart #identity #selfportraiture @ddimagemaker
Diogo Duarte is a London-based Portuguese Image Maker specializing in self-portraiture and psychological portraits. His background in mental health and bereavement support enables him to create outstanding portraiture that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional photography.
In 2014, one of Diogo's portraits was curated into a Saatchi Art Online collection, and in 2018 he was a finalist at Portugal's highest-profile Photography Biennial. In the same year, Diogo won a prize in the photography category at the FAPDA Kyoto Award and was one of the winner's of Life Framer's OPEN CALL.
His work has been widely exhibited in the UK, Japan, Italy, Canada and Portugal. More recently, his work was sold at auction at Paddle8 as part of the 'Boys, Boys, Boys!' show in support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Canada to support disadvantaged communities to access the arts. Diogo is also a freelance tutor at the London School of Photography.
京都 Art Gallery in Kyoto
London Kyoto FAPDA Award 2019
How much time does it take to create an artwork? Explain your process.
Some of my photographs have taken me over 2 years to execute while others take a little less time, perhaps a couple of months, which I find interesting given the instant nature of photography. Ideas come to me in a variety of ways. I often have instant ideas that come to me visually and in incredible clarity but unfortunately executing them is not so instant. I keep a notebook where I constantly sketch my ideas out and then add or take away depending on how the concept develops. It’s a pretty passive process in that I wait for things to come to me by making sure I have the headspace to enable ideas and concepts to gravitate towards me. From then on, it’s a rather time consuming process made up of sourcing the right location, props and costumes and organizing logistics for the day of the shoot. I also have therapy on a regular basis, which enables me to process my emotions, and that gives clarity and direction to my work; it helps me understand why I do what I do and a space to question its relevance.
What is your background?
I have a Psychology and Criminology degree and had been working in the mental health and suicide bereavement field since 2010 until last year when I decided to take a break and focus on my art. Working with people with mental health difficulties provided a world of inspiration for me. Psychology and photography have a beautiful symbiosis in my opinion; it’s not until you really try to understand people (and yourself) that you can create better work. Anything that falls short of that is pointless to me. That is not to say that my work aims to analyze anyone or seeks a higher truth, in fact, it’s far from that. My photography is the platform that enables me to question but I can’t question without the self-reflective tools psychology provides.
What role does your art have in society?
I am not sure of the answer to that question because as soon as I put work out there it’s no longer mine; other people develop a relationship with it to which I am not privy. All I know is what people, often strangers, feed back to me but it seems to me that some people can see themselves in my work and I take comfort in that. Isn’t all art about not being alone? Would art even serve any purpose if we were the last person on the planet? Art reminds us of the richness of what it is to have relationships with others.
If I think of my on-going series ‘Sour-Puss: The Opera’, I get a lot of flack for that project. I was told the woman in the photographs was too ugly and too old to look at and that she (the person, not the character) was an attention seeker with a knack for flashing her nudity to the world. They are harsh words but if I think about it, I feel that what that series does is to provoke people to think about beauty standards and our attitudes towards older women. It’s a conversation starter and that in itself is enough for me to know my work has purpose.
Do you ever venture out of your creative process to try out new things?
Absolutely. My attitude in life is to do things that make me nervous, sometimes terrified. If I don’t feel those things it’s lazy work and I know I’ve become complacent and so it’s not worth doing. When I started taking self-portraits at the beginning of my career that felt fresh and terrifying but now I am trying something new; I’ve moved more into deeply personal performative photography and I am no longer alone in my studio creating work, which feels risky at a personal level because I’m terrified of being rejected by my collaborators and by the public. I’m now surrounded by other people, some of whom I’m collaborating with and that feels very special and fresh to me. My collaborations are not just with artists but also with people from all walks of life, for example a psychotherapist in ‘Sour-Puss: The Opera’. I find this very interesting because it questions the very definition of who is an artist and who gets to make art. This ability to create work with non ‘traditional artists’ is very special to me because I think many people feel excluded by the ‘institution’ of art and cut off from their own creativity.
Working on commissioned psychological portraits is also something that constantly pushes me out of my comfort zone; it’s such a hard thing to really try to get to know another human being and find connection at a deeper level. This is why I so firmly believe my photography is not instant, even though the medium makes it appear so.
What do you dream?
I dream of the apocalypse all the time and have done for as long as I can remember. This is something that I’m consciously interested in: the breakdown of society, the breakdown of rules, the breakdown of identity, which could ultimately lead to truly discovering oneself. The other day I dreamed I was alone in a field of wheat and the sky was on fire; I still remember how the flames felt on my skin! It wasn’t a nightmare as I remember I was happy, as if I was looking forward to total freedom because everything had disappeared.
What current trends are you following and why?
Photography wise, none. As a teacher at the London School of Photography I have to keep up to date with what other photographers are doing and obviously I’m interested in the work of my peers but I wouldn’t say I’m following a particular trend, unless of course we look at my self-portraiture as following a trend – it does seem to have become an expanding field but then again it’s been around for an incredibly long time. When I’m not teaching I’m not so engaged in the medium, as I prefer to seek inspiration and connection through music and film. Either way, trends die off so I figure it’s best just to stay faithful to yourself and hopefully someone will notice.
How do you navigate the art world?
With a deck of tarot cards in one hand and a packet of paracetamol tablets in the other.