Aisha Jemila Daniels Finds Herself through Surreal Portraiture

Wednesday Jun 21st, 2017

Blog > Aisha Jemila Daniels Finds Herself through Surreal Portraiture

Aisha Jemila Daniels (2014 Winner in Photography) at the opening of "Enlightened: Contemporary Photography by YoungArts Alumni"

"Aisha's Acceptance" by Aisha Jemila Daniels

YoungArts alumna Aisha Jemila Daniels (2014 YoungArt Winner in Photography) took time out of her busy schedule for a quick Q&A about her work. Aisha’s photographs are currently on view at the YoungArts Gallery as part of the exhibition Enlightened - Contemporary Photography by YoungArts Alumni, curated by Michelle Dunn Marsh. Come by and see the exhibition, on view until June 30, 2017.
Can you share some recent career highlights with us?
A major highlight for me was my participation in an international exchange in the United Arab Emirates. I studied visual communications at the American University of Sharjah for a year. While living in the United Arab Emirates I received the Student Photographer of the Year award from Photography Live Dubai in Spring 2016. I was so excited! I got to do a photography workshop with Martin Grahame-Dunn, who is one of the leading photography trainers in the Middle East and Europe. Following that, I received my first artist residency in Boston, Massachusetts at the 555 Gallery. This past Spring I had my first solo exhibition at the Via Umbria Gallery in Washington, DC.  Currently I am in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, working as a gallery intern for the Al Qasimi Foundation. I am planning to move to Qatar in August.
Let’s take a look at your work. How would you describe your approach to photography?
My photography is my release, my way of expressing things I may have trouble expressing with words. My approach these days is surreal and conceptual. However, I'm revealing my reality and how I feel emotionally.
What are the main notions and deliberations you explore in your art?
Womanhood, femininity, blackness, African-ness, beauty, growth and the challenges I face. 
You use yourself as the subject of your work. What is the significance?
I want to take the opportunity to really observe myself: my growth and my faltering, my beauty as well as my ugliness. My work is very personal but has the ability to apply to everyone, which is so special about art: it can be personal and universal. 
How do you find honesty while also manipulating yourself into a surrealist image?
Although the photographs are manipulated, the purpose is to show my emotional reality. Nothing is to be taken literally, but as a visual presentation of my feelings.
You use flora metaphorically. Can you tell us more about these metaphors and their meaning, especially as it relates to your two pieces on view at YoungArts, Anxiety Attack and Aisha’s Acceptance?
Flowers are a symbol of my growth and the beauty that I nurture. The plant I used in those specific pieces to replace my head, is the Geranium flower of South Africa. In African stories, the plant has a controversial meaning. It can be a symbol of stupidity and wisdom, love and hostility. I find myself in this conflicting state. The flowers are me, as I'm growing and understanding myself better.