How Photographer and Founder of Women of New York Went From Waitressing to Working with Chris Rock

French-Senegalese photographer Delphine Diallo discusses how spontaneity and waitressing made her a better photographer, the financial model that allows her to balance prestige and personal projects, and how she has made the most of her chance encounters.

French-Senegalese photographer Delphine Diallo lives for life’s surprises. Little did she know, a chance meeting in Paris with famed photographer Peter Beard, who is known for his African wildlife shots, would come full circle, and he would become her mentor. In February 2008, Diallo received a call from Beard, and he asked, “What are you doing in April? Please come to Botswana with me to be my assistant on the Pirelli calendar.”

Diallo said yes, and the transformational trip solidified that photography was her calling. She later moved to New York, quit her full-time agency job, started waitressing, and moonlighted as a photographer. Randomly bumping into a lost Chris Rock in her Brooklyn neighborhood led to photographing Rock for a recent comedy tour and resulted in a huge career breakthrough. Clients have been coming ever since, including The New York Times, Nike, and Swizz Beats.

Her striking portraiture and mixed media collages combine artistry with activism to champion women and challenge societal norms through the exploration of anthropology, mythology, sexuality, identity, and race. “To make it in this male-dominated industry, you must be strong,” says Diallo. “I build my physical and mental strength by studying martial arts and reading constantly.”...more