Skip to main content

Frédérick Douglass (work of art)

Artwork Info

Created
2015
Artist
Omar Victor Diop (Senegalese, born 1980)
Dimensions
23 5/8 × 23 5/8 inches (60 × 60 centimeters)

Credit

Purchased with funds from the Friends of Photography

Object Number
2020.16.1
Culture
African Senegalese
Classification
Photography
Department
Modern

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • This is a portrait of artist Omar Victor Diop posing as the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass
  • Diop is a Senegalese photographer and designer whose photographs explore his heritage and the African diaspora.
  • Frédérick Douglass is part of Diop’s Diaspora photo series. In this series he substitutes baroque-era props with soccer accessories.

Learn More

Omar Victor Diop is a self-taught artist. He takes on the role of various saints, martyrs, and leaders from the global Black community in his photographs. Even though he photographed himself in these roles, he says his images are not self-portraits. 

“They are metaphorical portraits in which the idea of Black identity is central. I enjoyed being the subject and the object of the photographs, but, no, they are not self-portraits in the traditional sense. Part of me wants to reinvent the great heritage of elaborate studio photography that we have in Africa – and which every other young African artist is reacting against.”

Omar Victor Diop

Diop’s work explores his identity as a Senegalese artist. It also explores the African diaspora, or the movement of Africans and their descendants to different parts of the world. His photographs feature Black historical figures that he depicts using a style of art (baroque portraiture) that often excluded people of color. 

Frédérick Douglass reimagines a 19th-century portrait of Frederick Douglass by American photographer Samuel J. Miller. Douglass was a famous writer, speaker, and national leader of the abolitionist movement who escaped slavery. He commissioned Miller’s photograph as a way to gain supporters for his campaign to end slavery. Diop emulates Douglass’s intense gaze and determined expression in his version of the portrait. 

This portrait is included in the artist’s Diaspora series. Diop replaces baroque-era objects with soccer accessories (like the referee’s whistle in this portrait) in his photographs, to bring attention to the relationship between fame and exclusion for Black individuals. According to the artist, his series brings Black historical figures into a “current conversation about the African diaspora and contemporary issues around immigration, integration, and acceptance.”

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers: 

 

Resources for Students:

Images

  • A photograph of a Black man wearing a black suit jacket, a white dress shirt, and a green, paisley-patterned vest and bowtie. He is holding a golden referee’s whistle in one hand. The background is a green, paisley-patterned wallpaper that matches the man’s vest and tie.

    Frédérick Douglass