We’ve been exploring the avenues of visual storytelling and its wanderers for quite some time now. Those storytellers who push the envelope and attempt to redefine the rules and customs and challenge the artistic status quo we are particularly hot for.

Our latest crush is Saphir Niakadié, a powerful visual storyteller hailing from Côte D’ivoire and currently located in New York City. 

We asked her about her story, inspirations and creative process.

Who is Saphir Niakadie and what’s her story?

My story and artistic background aren’t actually in the arts, funny enough.I studied Biology and Business Administration in college and Healthcare Administration in grad school. I think I always had an appreciation for the arts but didn’t have the chance to explore any creative avenues for myself and see where they took me.

How did you decide to become a photographer? 

I’ve loved photographs since I was a kid. I liked the idea of being able to capture and freeze moments you could hold on to forever. But it wasn’t until grad school that I decided to get a camera and start messing with it. Even then it was more of a hobby and a way to address my emotions and give them a voice. But it’s true what they say, no one will take you seriously until you do. Sure enough when I started developing the story telling aspect of my work, creating series and actually taking ownership of my own art and skills, I was able to connect with more like-minded people and start working with them. That was only 2017 for me.

Amazing and very true! So was there a specific gig or moment that turned your career around? 

Ha! I think it is too early in my “career” to say that.

That’s very humble of you! How did you learn photography as a craft?

I haven’t had a mentor in photography so I had to teach myself pretty much everything I know. In fact, I have been thinking about it recently: I’ve been meaning to learn in studio lighting as a skill to add to my tool belt so we’ll see what happens with it!

What are your main artistic and creative inspirations? 

I draw inspiration from my own experiences quite a bit. That’s where the stories that I want to be told and want to portray with my photography are from. I’m from Cote d’Ivoire, so of course home, my culture and people play a massive role in my creative flow, without a doubt! Being able to portrait African and black beauty in a different light is a major factor in my artistic drive.

Who are some of the photographers you look up to the most?

That is a great question! I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to observe Adrienne Raquel, Nadine Ijewere and Renell Medrano at work and absorb as much knowledge as possible. That’d be a dream! 

What message are you trying to convey with your work? 

It really depends on the project. For example, I did a series called “Breathe” back in 2019 which was a time where I felt like life would not give me a break and I wanted to capture what it felt like to not be able to catch your breath when life keeps knocking you down. Till this day I get messages about how uplifting or how relatable that series was because everyone has been there and felt that way at some point. There is so much that can be drawn from our emotions and human experience and I plan to explore that more and turn it into art that can speak to people in a powerful and uplifting way!

What would you change in the fashion/artistic scene today? 

I would love for people to define beauty within their own standards rather than how it’s supposed to be defined by whatever external models and rules. The average person does not see themselves in magazines or on the runway and I think now you are seeing more photographers who are making a huge effort to capture and portray beauty in a different and more personal way without caring about how ‘beauty’ should be represented. That’s extremely powerful and inspirational!