Lougè Delcy is the brilliant photographer behind the stunning images of EBONY’s April cover star Jodie Turner-Smith. Better known as Dapper Lou, the Brooklyn native of Haitian heritage is known for highlighting the resilience, strength and vibrancy of people of color in his photos, which fosters understanding and unity across cultural boundaries. “My work is a testament to the boundless beauty and richness that lies within each person of color I have the privilege of capturing,” he tells EBONY. “I remain steadfastly committed to honoring their stories and elevating their voices through my art.”

To bring Turner-Smith’s story to light, Delcy and the actress chose Jamaica as the ideal setting. “Over a sun-soaked weekend, we allowed its golden light to guide our creative journey,” he shares. Here’s how the shoot came together and more on Delcy’s creative process. 

EBONY’s April Cover featuring actress Jodie Turner-Smith by Lougè Dapper Lou.

EBONY: Can you describe the process of putting together this incredible shoot?

Lougè Delcy: It all began when Jodie and I connected via Instagram and bonded over our mutual admiration for each other’s work. After a year of discussing the possibility of collaborating, the perfect opportunity arose when Jodie mentioned her upcoming family vacation to her homeland, Jamaica. Feeling a surge of excitement, I didn’t hesitate to book a last-minute flight as I was eager to capture Jodie’s essence in the place closest to her heart. I joined her circle of family and friends, where I was warmly welcomed as if I were part of their tight-knit group. The cover shot stands as a testament to the organic nature of our collaboration–Jodie, radiant on a picturesque beach, framed by Jamaica’s enchanting backdrop. With her best friend styling her in Gonza, everything fell into place seamlessly. Our adventure continued on the second day at Frenchmen Cove, where we indulged in delicious local fish, danced to the vibrant rhythms of reggae, and captured images among the relaxing sounds of nature. We truly lived in the moment and treasured every shared experience in Port Antonio, Jamaica. 

How did you decide on which backdrops across the island and were there any challenges that you faced while shooting on location? 

We both stayed at the charming Geejam Hotel in Port Antonio, so it made perfect sense to explore the villa and its surroundings. Five months earlier, I had been on a shoot in Jamaica photographing DJ Khaled for his “God Did” album, and I remembered some fantastic locations that I had scouted during that trip. In particular, there was an amazing tree at Frenchman’s Cove that I couldn’t wait to revisit. With the help of a local driver, we had the freedom to stop and capture the beauty of Jamaica whenever inspiration struck. It’s not every day that you experience a trip with zero challenges, but that’s precisely what happened. Our time together was filled with nothing but good vibes, that left a lasting impression on both of us.

“Senegal” by Lougè Dapper Lou.

When did you first fall in love with photography? 

I first picked up a camera in 2009, eagerly snapping away at anything and everything that caught my eye. But it wasn’t until 2016 that the true depth of my passion was ignited. My first trip to Africa is where discovered a purpose I never knew I was searching for. As I stood there, surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes and vibrant culture, I was struck by a profound realization: I had the power to help transform and elevate the way people of color were represented, both in Africa and across the globe. The narrative that I grew up with was completely different from what I experienced. From that moment on I was completely determined to use my lens to make a lasting, positive impact on the world. It’s been an incredible love affair ever since! 

What inspires your work? 

The core of my inspiration is a deep-rooted love for capturing the essence of people of color from every corner of the globe and illuminating their inherent beauty through my lens. When I traveled to Kenya in 2018, I strived to not only showcase the stunning diversity that exists within African communities but also to create a space for authentic representation, which empowers individuals to embrace their identities and recognize their worth. Another source of inspiration for me comes from nature because. Its rejuvenating, healing and tranquil qualities, also stir my soul and infuse my work with a sense of serenity. Nature is my therapy. Beyond these elements, spirituality plays a vital role in shaping my creative vision. It is through this connection that I am able to transcend the tangible and infuse my art with a profound depth, allowing me to share my most authentic self with the world. 

“Move” shot in Zanzibar by Lougè Dapper Lou.
“Blue City” by Lougè Dapper Lou.

How did you carve out your style as a photographer and how would you describe it? 

My work represents a harmonious marriage of photojournalism and fine art photography, a unique fusion that has become an integral part of my creative identity. As I travel around the globe from places like Ethiopia, Senegal, Colombia and Cambodia, I am driven by a deep-rooted purpose: to document the raw, authentic essence of my subjects while transforming their stories into visual art through the distinct treatment that I apply to each image. My consistency over the years helped shape my point of view. I am consistently examining, editing and refining my work, so that I’m very clear on my creative identity and mastering the art of the aesthetic. 

Central to my artistic philosophy is the celebration of color, which not only serves to honor the rich hues of people of color but also enables me to make a bold statement that resonates and captivates. Through these colors, I can evoke powerful emotions that convey strength and resilience. By embracing bold contrasts, I further amplify the impact of my work, creating a visually compelling narrative that invites viewers to connect on a deeper, more profound level with the subjects and the stories they embody. 

What do you hope viewers will take from your work? 

My mission is to instill in those who experience my work a profound sense of pride, dignity and belonging. I am passionate about crafting images that deeply resonate with viewers, stirring within them a connection to their roots and fostering a greater appreciation for their history. My ultimate goal is to make each person feel truly special and continue to foster a rich legacy surrounding Blackness. Through my visual art, I aim to empower and embolden individuals and bestow upon them the confidence and strength reminiscent of superheroes. It is my fervent hope that as people immerse themselves in the stories and emotions woven into each frame, they will be inspired to embrace their heritage, celebrate their unique identities and stand tall against adversity, just like the heroes we have always admired. 

Self Portrait by Lougè Dapper Lou.

What needs to change for Black photographers in the industry?

For far too long, Black artists have been denied the opportunities they so rightfully deserve. It shouldn’t be about being the token Black person; rather, everyone should be granted a fair chance to showcase their talents and prove themselves. To create lasting change, we must first shift our collective mindset, and then, transformative actions will naturally follow. Recent events have sparked a turning point, ushering in a wave of change. However, there is still much work to be done. My hope we can accelerate this progress by dismantling barriers and fostering a more inclusive and equitable world for artists of all backgrounds. As an artist myself, I am personally committed to championing this cause and helping to shape a brighter, more diverse future for the creative community. 

Why are Black photographers important? 

As a Black photographer, I hold a unique and significant role in capturing the essence of my people. My experiences and deep understanding of the Black community afford me a special connection, particularly when I travel to visit indigenous tribes. The mutual respect and rapport I share with the native people transcends cultural boundaries, allowing me to document their lives with authenticity and empathy. I comprehend the Black experience on a more profound level, which translates into the images I create. This intimate connection not only shapes my work but also fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie; they see me not as a foreigner, but as one of their own. Through my art, I strive to honor this bond and celebrate the diverse beauty of our shared experience. 

“Kenya” by Lougè Dapper Lou.
“Senegal” by Lougè Dapper Lou.

What is your proudest moment as a photographer? 

The moment I first saw my work in print was nothing short of magical. Witnessing my creations on the walls of homes, restaurants and galleries for the first time filled me with an indescribable sense of accomplishment and wonder. What had once been mere ideas in my mind had now been immortalized into tangible, beautiful pieces of art that could endure the test of time. It’s a reminder that my art has the power to outlive me and be cherished and appreciated by generations to come. It was in that defining moment that I truly grasped the magnitude of my journey and thought to myself, “Wow, I am an artist.” 

How has your Haitian heritage informed your work? 

My Haitian heritage ignites a fire within me, fueling my passion, dedication and unwavering appreciation for every opportunity that comes my way. Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the relentless hard work and sacrifices my parents made to build a life in a new country, and this has instilled in me a deep sense of gratitude and determination. Being immersed in both Creole and English at home, my Haitian roots were the first cultural landscape I had the privilege of exploring. From my mom’s griyo and “bannann peze aven diri jon jon” dishes to me watching my dad send money back home to Haiti, I was able to learn how to appreciate the small yet powerful details that shaped me. As I journey, I continually draw comparisons between my own experiences and those of the diverse cultures I encounter. Through these comparisons, I’ve come to realize that our shared human experiences bridge the gaps between us, fostering connection and understanding. My love for paradise, warm weather and tropical vibes is undeniably intertwined with my Haitian heritage. It’s a testament to the island boy that resides within me and a reflection of the vibrant and lively spirit I carry with me on every adventure.

Discover more of Lougè’s work below and follow @dapperlou for more information.