Featured Artist Denise Solay

Denise Solay takes photographs of walls that evoke the culture, history and character of cities around the world. View more of her images by visiting her website.


“Bits N Pieces” (Nawalgarh, India) Photograph of gray wall with remnants of posters by Denise Solay

“Bits N Pieces” (Nawalgarh, India) Photography, Various Sizes


As a jewelry designer and travel photographer, I roam the world looking for unique pieces of history. One morning in Marrakech I was out for a walk, lamenting about how few of the younger Moroccan men I came across were wearing traditional djellabas. They were wearing jeans and t-shirts and talking on their mobile phones.


“Onic” (New York City) Photograph of a black wall with red graffiti and a torn poster of a woman in a bathing suit by Denise Solay

“Onic” (New York City) Photography, Various Sizes


How was I going to be able to capture the visual richness of this ancient culture—the history, the traditions—if they are evolving so fast?


“Walk This Way” (Jaisalmer, India) Photograph of a white arrow painted on a mud brown wall by Denise Solay

“Walk This Way” (Jaisalmer, India) Photography, Various Sizes


Then I realized that I was standing next to a most interesting, visually evocative, piece of history—the walls of this beautiful, old city.


“The Shadow Knows” (West 29th Street, New York City) Photograph of a gray painted wood slat wall with paper stuck between the slats by Denise Solay

“The Shadow Knows” (West 29th Street, New York City) Photography, Various Sizes


Since that morning’s awakening, I have photographed walls throughout Morocco, Mexico, Myanmar, India, Argentina and Chile, as well as here in New York City in Brooklyn and aboard the historic fire boat John J. Harvey in New York harbor.


“Hey Red” (East Houston Street, New York City) Photograph of a red and black painted wall with poster remnants by Denise Solay

“Hey Red” (East Houston Street, New York City) Photography, Various Sizes


The photographs of these walls are like abstract impressionist paintings, but with a much deeper message, of a different culture, a different environment and a different moment in time. Each tells a story about the history, about the culture, about the people and about beauty.


“Rain Forest” (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico) Photograph of a textured wall with vertical blue and dark brown streaks by Denise Solay

“Rain Forest” (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico) Photography, Various Sizes


These images of weathered walls that give us comfort and shelter from the outside world, crumbling under the weight of time, reveal beauty in their worn surfaces. Sometimes I find layers of disintegrating printed posters and graffiti on the walls, hinting at all the generations of people that have left their mark on their surfaces.


“Ripp Tornn” (Salta, Argentina) Photograph of a gray wall with large pieces of peeling paint by Denise Solay

“Ripp Tornn” (Salta, Argentina) Photography, Various Sizes


I digitally edit the edges of the frame, to add additional energy to the image and to remind us that this surface will eventually disappear along with the history it represents. Not only do these walls tell a story of their rich history, they just look beautiful.


“Why” (Calle 69, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico) Photography of stucco wall painted red with one swatch of black paint by Denise Solay

“Why” (Calle 69, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico) Photography, Various Sizes


Recently, I came across exciting black and white photos by Aaron Siskind. I was fascinated. He was shooting photos of walls long before I ever looked through a viewfinder. I have always loved abstract impressionist art, but believed it was purely a painted medium; photography was for capturing the “real world.”


“Hot Lips” (Orissa, India) Photography of a blue wall with a red painted protrusion that resembles lips by Denise Solay

“Hot Lips” (Orissa, India) Photography, Various Sizes


Little did I know, as a quote from The Aaron Siskind Foundation’s site states:

Siskind turned the medium of photography on its head, taking pictures of found objects that were simultaneously true-to-life and abstract… he was one of the first photographers to combine what was known as ‘straight’ photography (recording the real world as the lens ‘sees’ it) with abstraction.


Artist Denise Solay at work taking photos on a city street

Artist Denise Solay at work


It’s nice to know that my photos of walls have a provenance recognized by one of the world’s great artists.


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