Malick Welli, Photographer

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Can you introduce yourself?

I am Baye Kebe Malick,. I am a 27 years old Senegalese man. My artist name is Malick Welli and is tribute to my grandfather. I have been a photographer and a visual artist for 5 years.

Why did you choose this profession?

The picture has been my passion since my childhood. In high school, I bought a phone only to be able to take pictures. Growing up, I wanted to become an architect but my parents did not approve this choice and I had to integrate a business school. After finishing school, I decided to stop it as I wasn’t seeing myself working in a company.

What is your background?

As mentioned above, I joined a business school because of my parents, but at the end of my studies, I followed my instinct and I started photography. I did a few internships but I never worked in a corporate company. I needed independence and freedom.

I have not followed any special training in photography. I taught myself. I bought my first camera in 2012 and I started working as an assistant with Djibril Dramé.

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As an artist, how do you define yourself?

In Senegal people see me as the photographer for children. In fact, I grew up in a house in which I was the youngest child but there were no pictures of me. That really got into me not to have memories of my childhood immortalized in pictures.

With age and with my growing interest in photography, I decided that I could help other children to immortalize their childhood.

I am very sensitive to issues related to children but also to the women’s issues in the Senegalese society

Who influenced you?

One of the people who influenced me enormously is the Senegalese photographer Boubacar Toure Mandémory. He is a globetrotter full of globe anecdotal images, street scenes and light scenes. He is a great figure of the Senegalese photography scene.

Wendy Spivey played a big role in my career and I want to pay tribute to her because without her I would probably have a completely different journey.

She is an Australian designer who designs jewelry. She lives and works in Dakar. She is a second mother to me. Wendy influenced my way of working.

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Which artists do you admire?

The two photographers that I admire above all are Robert Doisneau and Malick Sidibé.

I am extremely sensitive to their humanist approach.

I admire the work of the Senegalese artist Soly Cissé.

And for photography, I love the works of my friends Alun B and Siaka Traoré. We are very close and we support each other.

Have your relatives always supported you?

Not at all ! My parents did not understand my choice and they wanted me to do a “real job.” But with time, and the recognition of my work, they look at my profession in a different way.

The beginning of my artistic career was a difficult time because I was alone without the support of my family.

However, today my mother supports me at 100%. She is proud of me and even give me advice in my work!

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What does your work reflect?

I am a humanist. I direct my look towards a new Africa, a positive Africa, an Africa that has potential.

What are you inspired by?

I work on specific projects. Once I chose the subject, I am doing research on it and I choose models based on the topic. Then I am ready to start the series.

For my last series on integration between peoples, I had to show the heart of a rising Africa. The project is called Cogito “Je pense donc je suis”, the idea of knowing and understanding what vision people had of this Africa supposed to be the cradle of humanity. I like to ask people their interpretation of my photos, what they inspire them.

How do you work?

I have orders from for example NGOs who use my photos to illustrate their websites. I also work a lot with the expat community during events and exhibitions.

Regarding the time devoted to a series, it is quite variable and it also depends on constraints like the quantity of orders received.

I began a series in 2015 (Cogito), although unfinished I exposed some pictures at the Biennial of Dakar in May. I have still not finished it yet.

I can work on several series simultaneously.

The story of my series “ Journal d’un retour au pays natal “ was born during a stay in the village of my parents (in the Saloum). I was there as part of an NGO order. I decided to make a series of portraits of my family. I wanted to honor the work of women who are incredibly dynamic and courageous. These women are waking up at dawn to fetch water and pleased husbands and children.

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Which step do you like the most in the process of realization?

This is the moment when the subject of the series is set, the moment I know which way to go.

I also love when my work is exposed, when I offer the public the opportunity to discover my pictures. And, of course, I particularly appreciate when I feel the public like my work.

When you start a creation, do you have a clear idea of the desired result?

Yes most of the time I know what I want to achieve even if it can evolve during the process. I can change tracks and guidance. Work can evolve through my exchanges with other artists.

Which of your creations do you like the most?

It is difficult for me to answer that question. Even if at that time my work in black and white are popular and most sold, it is difficult for me to choose one in particular. I do not want to limit myself to black and white. Color offers a lot of possibilities that I want to explore.

Where do you work?

I built a studio at home. For special work orders I can go to my customers’ places.

My studio is for me the perfect environment to do my job.

Are you a member of association, collectives or other?

Just a few years I was a member of the collective “Look at the city,” but due to a lack of time, I gradually disengaged.

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What are your current projects?

I finish my “Cogito” and “Happy Nappy” projects and I am also preparing exhibitions in Dakar and the United States for 2017.

Written by

Promotion de l’Art Africain

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