The Optimists Portfolio

Djeneba Aduayom

2018 - 2019

I was commissioned by Time magazine in collaboration with Ava DuVernay to create an artistic portrait portfolio. Ava's idea was: " To celebrate and suggest ways that one can find inspiration in our present moment through the work of artists who carve a path for us all. Whether a filmmaker or a photographer, an author or an actress, a poet or a painter, these pages are filled with people who use art as a weapon for dynamic optimism. When we pivot from the perils of politics and power to the blade of grass, the note of music, the line of a novel, the expression on the screen, we breathe deeply and are revived."

It was amazing to be able to work with each artist and establish a definite mood and essence throughout this series. Some were photographed in a studio and some in their environment which enabled me to create a connection between the artist and their art. And for some others like Kinsale who is a poet, and Aurora who is in fashion, it was about capturing more of an essence and a feeling. There is an element in each picture that defines each and every person. As for the one and only Cicely Tyson, her strength, grace, and poise say it all. It was a magical series to photograph.

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  • Cicely Tyson

  • Jeffrey Cirio

  • Aurora James

  • Cicely Tyson

  • Jenny Holzer

  • Elizabeth Alexander

  • Kinsale Hueston

  • Frank Bowling

  • Hank Willis Thomas

  • Louis Delsarte