Who is Ina THIAM ?
I am a Senegalese photographer and videographer, passionate about culture and sports. I chose photography over any other profession because I have a photographic memory – that is, my memory captures more of what I see than what I hear. So, quite naturally, I chose photography.
I have been practicing photography since 2012. I started building audiovisual skills during an Africulturban project called Hip-Hop Akademy. The training was more oriented towards film,we only did photography for the ‘making of’films, but over the years I have done more photos than videos. This is because I had started to manage the ‘URBAN DOC’ project, which is a documentation center specialized in urban cultures. My work consisted of doing the photo coverage of hip-hop activities and then archiving the images for the benefit of the center.
What are the challenges you have faced during your career?
Improving technically and artistically has always been a challenge for me. Fortunately, I never had any problems with equipment because Africulturban trained me and gave me the gear I needed to experiment. My main challenge was to continue to learn on my own after the two years of training and to set some milestones in the field of photography.
When confronted with stereotypes, I was relentless, in part long before I got into the art world and especially hip hop. Society can often be intolerant. I’ve found some people intolerant to me exercising my freedom – my freedom to spend time with who I want, set my own schedule, and dress how I want. But as the years go by, you become more professional, you try to move forward despite the pressures, although other stereotypes are added, such as the age of getting married, pressure to stay home when work requires travel….These are the kind of stereotypes I’ve faced since the beginning of my career.
For me it’s a constant battle, sometimes I close my eyes and try to
move on, I set goals and try to build milestones that speak louder than those stereotypes.
What do you think about gender equality in photography?
Photography does not belong to anyone. Today we see male make-up artists, chefs, etc. as we see female petrol pump attendants, photographers among others. Instead of equality, I would rather speak of representation. In Senegal, photography is a new profession for women, so it is normal that we do not see as many women as men in the ecosystem of photography, but it is changing. It will happen…
What is Genji?
I am a founding member of Genji Hip-hop. Genji is an association of female hip-hop artists, activists, feminists, and cultural actors.
As a photographer who works a lot on hip-hop archives in Senegal, Genji makes it very easy for me to collect information and archive elements. It is also a source of inspiration, sisterhood, and learning as a photographer.
What do you think about the empowerment of women in Hip-Hop?
We are working on it. I just want to emphasize that this empowerment will not come from anywhere else but from ourselves. It’s up to us to turn our passion for hip-hop into a business, something that can provide for us, our communities, and all of this in the right way. This issue of empowerment is something that everyone is working on, men and women as well. It is not always easy to make money, we are still looking for funds here and there, but it will come one day.
What other initiatives are needed to encourage women to take an interest in the audiovisual professions?
Today, there are quite a few schools or structures that offer audiovisual training. What I would like to encourage is the promotion of successful role models, women who practice these arts and their achievements.
My advice to young girls is to trust their dreams, believe in themselves and what they want to show or say through photography. This is a profession that offers a lot of freedom to those who practice it.
You can transmit what you see and feel, so, it is a very strong tool of expression through which one improves self-confidence.