A Sit Down with Photographer Malike Sidibe
by Alan Winslow – January 18th, 2018
Malike Sidibe, a young photographer taking the Portrait Photography world by storm, shares how he jump-started his career at such a young age.
Recently we sat down with Malike Sidibe, a 20-year-old fashion and portrait photographer living and working in NYC. Malike was born in the Ivory Coast and grew up in Guinea before moving to the United States in 2010. He picked up his first camera in 2013 and has been shaping his photographic style and career ever since. We sat down to discuss his work before setting out on a quick shoot.
Q: First question…What got you interested in photography?
A: First I wanted to do menswear design, and I started taking classes at FIT. I realized that I didn’t like making clothes as much as I like to style and photograph them. So I went from that to save up for a camera. I started taking really cool photos on Instagram. And soon I found myself photographing for my friends, so much that it turned into a job.
Q: Have you been trained?
A: I joined NYCSalt (a 501c3 nonprofit digital photography and college access program serving low income, immigrant youth in NYC taught and lead by professional volunteers) in 2013. I attended every day and asked questions. I wanted to recreate stuff I liked.
Q: So what photographers influenced you?
A: Photographers that I really like are Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. And most of the time, I’m really influenced by photographs that I see online and when I’m walking down the street. I don’t always look up the photographer. I just look at the photograph and try to think about how I can make it better. Also, my friends influence me a lot.
Q: So you mentioned Instagram. How does Instagram influence your career?
A: I think Instagram plays a big part in photography because I feel at one point people were like, ‘you need to have certain jobs or know certain people to be a professional photographer’.
I feel like Instagram gave people who wouldn’t necessarily have access to any of that, a voice. Because you can start an account, post amazing photos, and people will eventually see it and follow you. Next, you’re getting jobs through it.
Also, I met most of my friends through Instagram especially the people that I photograph. I find myself on Instagram seeing a model and thinking how I could style and collaborate with that person. I end up reaching out and setting up a shoot.
Q: Do you find that you have a high success rate of asking random people to allow you to photograph them?
A: Yeah, I have a high success rate because I use my Instagram account as my portfolio. Once they check out my work, they decide if they like my style and want to work with me.
Q: What I love about your images is your use of color. Can you talk a little about how you use color in your photographs?
A: I think about the actual shot and try to create that world in my mind. With colors, I find myself getting pulled when I’m shooting. I start off simple but get drawn in.
Q: What’s your favorite color?
A: My favorite color — lately I have been thinking about that a lot. I don’t think I have a favorite. I really like red or anything that pops. Right now, during this whole interview, I have been looking at these two pumpkins. I’m thinking about how they would look against another color like red. Maybe doing a shoot with someone wearing a red leather jacket with a pumpkin colored background. I don’t think I have a favorite single color, but I love thinking in collaborative colors.
Q: So you had a big summer. Tell me about it.
A: This summer a lot of things happened including getting accepted into the Eddie Adams Workshop. They gave us assignments to go out and shoot. Based on how well you did on the assignment you could win an award. And I ended up winning the biggest prize which was the Nikon prize. I think it’s taken me in a good direction because it has opened up a ton opportunities. I’ve met so many people that I didn’t know would like my work. I was really nervous because the Eddie Adams Workshop is mostly known for photojournalism, and I’m all about fashion and pop colors. But being in the same room with these amazing photojournalists and fashion photographers was inspiring.
Q: Last question. What’s the dream?
A: What’s the dream? I feel like that’s the question. I mean the dream has always been to be recognized for my photographs, especially having the same name as a famous photographer from Africa. It’s a pressure that I need to live up to, embrace, and make sure I set myself apart. I don’t know, the dream is being known as Malike Sidibé the photographer that came from West Africa and went after his dream in photography and accomplished every single thing that he put his mind to.
After our conversation, we set out with a mutual friend to see how Malike works. It’s amazing how he sees the light, shadow, and color. I was also impressed by how he uses everyday objects to enhance his images.
Below are some examples of how Malike uses the environment to create his images.
Malike immediately starts working by using the side of a white van as a fill.
Here Malike uses the light reflecting off a building across the street as a hard spotlight.
Using hard light and a solid background to make a clean portrait.
Photographers like Malike who love color begin their color management workflow at capture with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. Learn more about all the options for color management and find the right solution for you at xritephoto.com.
Learn More About Malike Sidibe
If you’d like to see more of Malike’s amazing work head over his Instagram account @malikesidibe or his website. X-Rite is honored to introduce emerging photographers and filmmakers. We are grateful to Malike for taking the time to talk with us here at the X-Rite Blog.