Philip-Daniel Ducasse’s Afrocentric work documents people, culture and the talents they possess
Born in Quebec and raised in Haiti, the now New York-based photographer is heavily inspired by his culture.
- Ayla Angelos
- 3 August 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
“I got to where I am today through hard work and persistence,” says New York-based photographer Philip-Daniel Ducasse, who was born in Quebec City, Canada, and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. “I come from a culture where I was made to believe that I only had three career choices: doctor, lawyer or engineer. Those professions were the only ones deemed acceptable in my household.” As such, Philip-Daniel spent the entirety of college pursuing the sciences as a profession; that was before he realised his true passion for the arts. “Photography has always been an important element in my life,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I’ve always used it as a conduit for meditation and self-discovery.”
From a mere glance at Philip-Daniel’s portfolio, you’re instantly aware of how meaningful he finds the act of taking pictures. Inspired by his family’s photography archives, he looks back to his early childhood flipping through the albums. “This simple act gave me a glimpse at what life looked like before birth,” he explains. “As my mother would say: ‘You must know where you came from to know where you’re going’”. It’s this motto and “lesson” that Philip-Daniel reminds himself of regularly, channelling what he’s learnt from his mother into an inspirational starting point for his practice.
Now documenting life around him, Philip-Daniel describes his aesthetic as being “very Afrocentric”. Focusing predominantly on immigrants and those underrepresented in the media, he sees his work as a means of providing a platform for “those people to be celebrated for their culture and many talents that they possess.” He adds: “I really enjoy photographing people who look like me – people who I feel connected to, whether through the culture or through art.” An immigrant from Haiti, too, he’s always sought out the best way to document and tell the stories of his culture and his people, adding to their archive with utmost sincerity. “My aesthetic is that of an activist, though I think that can be a subtle message; I want it to be profound and speak for itself.”
Thus, culture plays a key role in his practice. Philip-Daniel now resides in one of the biggest cities in the world – experiencing life and taking in new influences that consequently provide him with a “unique world view”, alongside a healthy dose of inspiration to pull from creatively. He continues to tell us how he’s a “multidimensional individual”, and that he’s someone who has ideas arriving in flux. So, when starting his day at the studio, there’s no question that he’s arrived armed with plenty of innovative ideas. A typical day in this case has no linear structure and, instead, he sets off with the expectation that the hours to come will be joyfully unpredictable and varied.
“The best part about being a self-employed photographer is the ability to tailor my life to what I want it to look like at any given time,” he says. “Having complete freedom over my schedule is the ultimate level of freedom in our current societal construct; doing what I do has provided me with so much freedom over the years that I would never go back to what life was like prior to taking that leap of faith and going after my goals.” Resultantly, his creative process gets a little “hectic” at times, yet it’s one that allows him the independence to meditate, practice yoga, head to the gym and constantly think of fresh and original ideas. “I drive myself crazy doing this, but it keeps me motivated and on my toes.”
Putting thoughts into practice, his most recent – and now sold out – self-published zine Big Brother Little Brother is a series and publication that he created in lockdown. A collection of images shot over a one-month period in South Africa, it sees the documentation of a group of Pantsula Dancers called the Tembisa Red Devils. “I went into this project feeling really free and unbounded and the resulting images are really magical,” he says, while his other works present an array of narrative-driven portraiture plus scenes of culture and life.
Although the coming months continue to appear uncertain, Philip-Daniel sees his future as one that looks bright. Producing evocative imagery, his work is here to spark conversation, to provoke a sense of emotion and to garner thought from his audience – “both the good and the bad” – all the while presenting what it’s like to feel and be human. “This won’t be the last time you hear from me; this is only the tip of the iceberg and the rest is yet to come.”
Philip-Daniel Ducasse: West Indians
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and continued to work with us on a freelance basis. From November 2019 she joined the team again, working with us as a Staff Writer on Mondays and Tuesdays until August 2020.