Cheryl Koralik


About the Artist:

Cheryl Koralik's career as a photographer began while studying at Columbia College in Chicago under the tutelage of Bob Thall, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen and Alan Cohen. These mentors helped Her develop a particular affinity for portraiture and encouraged me to explore fashion photography.

Her Fashion photography included shootingfashion editorials for magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire and Harper's Bazaar.  For many years, her work focused on advertising including award-winning campaigns for BMW, British Airways, MasterCard, Martell Cognac and the Smithsonian Institution, among others. The awards included a Ceba for Excellence (1990),Communication Arts Award for Excellence (1991, 1995, 1999 and 2001), the Art Directors Club Annual Exhibition (1991), a Studio Magazine Annual Award of Excellence (1992), and an Annual American Photography Award of Excellence (1995).

During this time, she was reintroduced to portraiture, shooting personage such as John Hurt, Willem Dafoe and John Lee Hooker for clients including Rolling Stone, Harper's Bazaar and Vibe  magazines. Through this work she reconnected with my photographic origins and realized that, at this point in her journey as an artist, she needed to take her work to a more personally gratifying level.

She began to explore a photojournalistic path and traveled to India and Burkina Faso on humanitarian assignments with the non-governmental organization, Action on Disability and Development. This is when she discovered the West African masques. And, suddenly, with an organic force and a passionate surge of obligation, her life changed completely. She found her true voice. Thus began a new chapter in her photographic career—the masque series.

Over the next two decades, she made several expeditions to various West African countries, researching and photographing tribal masques—mediums of the spirit world—and their associated rituals. Based on the ancient belief system of animism, the ceremonial masques are a tradition that has been passed down through generations. This documentation is a portrait of a secret society, a sacred part of African heritage.

The masque photographs have been exhibited internationally in galleries and museums including the Musée de L'Elysée in Lausanne, the Center of Photography in Woodstock, and Charlotte Jackson Fine Art in Santa Fe. A selection of the masque series resides in the permanent collection of the Musée de L'Eysée as well as other private collections. These photographs have been featured in publications including The Sunday Times  magazine,Blind Spot, Good Weekend Magazine/The Sydney Morning Herald , So It Goes, and The Unseen Eye  by Thames & Hudson, as part of William M. Hunt's photographic collection.


According to photographer, Cheryl Koralik: "It was February 1991 when my feet first touched on the West African soil of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. And as if it were yesterday, those initial visuals remain vivid in my mind’s eye....This is when it began, my love affair with Africa: the people, the culture, the history, the music, the laughter, and the magic. Like an injection, it was in my blood. Immediately and forever.


One day, while driving through Bobo in the oppressive Sahelian midday heat, my eyes were struck with something I had never seen before: men adorned in raffia (a straw-like fiber) were running through the streets with whips. I followed the men and discovered a whole new world—the spirit world of West Africa and the sacred masques*. The chief of the village had died and, for weeks on end, the funereal rites would continue. Tradition played its role as guns fired in salute, the women sang a cappella and, as the balafons (West African xylophone) began to play, the sacred masques danced themselves into trances, acting as mediators while channeling the supernatural world of the dead in order to safely lead the deceased’s soul to rest with those of his ancestors: ceremonial protection through animistic beliefs, the spirit world unveiled.


Curiosity and a desire for more knowledge of this fanfare led me to visit with the village elders, who welcomed me and spoke mostly through parables and proverbs carried down from generation to generation. From them I learned more about animism, an ancient belief system, which predates the arrival of Christianity and Islam into West Africa. I learned that in animism everything has a soul: animals, plants, trees, rivers, even inanimate objects, giving reason to everything that happens in life and to life itself. They explained the sacredness of the tribal masques: how the appointed artist would first pray, asking forgiveness of the tree from which he would carve the wood for a masque; how young boys were chosen to enter the sacred forest and, through their rites of passage, would or would not be initiated into the secret society as a masque; how they learned from their elders the secret codes and languages that had been passed down through the ages.


After many days of educating myself about this new found culture, I was granted permission by the deceased chief’s son to photograph the masques. But in order to do so, I first needed to offer them a sacrifice—which was simply, a case of Solibra, the local beer. I could only communicate with the masques through a translator, since, once robed, they only speak in the secret tongue they learned in the sacred forest. By the second day, a mutual trust and respect had developed between us. Thus began for me a new quest, a new photographic endeavor and a new journey—one filled with passion and magic that would take me to several West African countries.


Almost 20 years later, my love for Africa has not diminished. And the road continues, like an Ali Farka song."




#ARTFORFREEDOM, online exhibit curated by Madonna, and Vice, May, 2014     

Elisa Contemporary Art, "Curate NYC", Riverdale, New York, 2013

Gallery Brooklyn, "The Contemplative Vision and the Exhaltation of Feelings", Brooklyn, New York, 2013

CurateNYC, online exhibit curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 2013

CurateNYC, online exhibit curated by Edwin Becker, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2013

CurateNYC, online exhibit curated by Wim van Sinderen, The Hague Museum of Photography, 2013

George Eastman House, "The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the WM Hunt Collection", Rochester, New York, 2011

Phillips de Pury, "AFRICA" New York City, New York, USA, 2010

Oliver Gordon Gallery, "The Big Picture" Toronto, Canada, 2008

Studio 201, solo show, Ojai, California, USA, 2007

Ojai Centre for the Arts, “Transformation” Ojai, California, USA, 2006

West Side Arts Coalition, “H20”, New York City, New York, USA, 2000

Center for Photography in Woodstock, “Grace,” Woodstock, New York, USA, 2000

Cultergest, “The Century of the Body 1900-2000,” Lisbon, Portugal, 1999

Centre Space, “Paintings, Poems, Prayers,” Easton, Pennsylvania, USA, 1999

Musee de l’Elysee, "Les Masques", and permanent collection, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1996

Charlotte Jackson Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, 1992

Pictures of Peace, Worldwide Traveling Exhibition, USA, 1991

King of Hearts, ADD INDIA Exhibition, Norwich, UK, 1991



Back to the Cabin, Dale Mulfinger, Taunton Press, USA, 2013

The Unseen Eye, W.M. Hunt, Aperture, USA, 2011

Windfall Light, The Visual Language of ECM, Lars Müller Publishers, Switzerland, 2010

A Christian’s Response to Islam, James L.Garlow, River-Oak Publishing, USA, 2002

Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatje, Bloomsbury Publishing, UK, 2000

Mulberry at Home, Roger Saul, Ebury Press, Random House, UK, 1999

Visions of Angels, Smithmark Publishers, USA, 1999

A Literary Book of Days, Crown Publishers, USA, 1994

A Positive View, sponsored by Vogue, 1994

Disability, Liberation, and DevelopmentPeter Coleridge, An Oxfam Publication, UK ,1993

Time’s Arrow, Martin Amis, Crown Publishers, USA, 1991

The Idealizing Image/The Art Of Fashion PhotographyAn Aperture Book, USA, 1991

Pictures of Peace, Knopf Publications, USA, 1991


EDITORIAL (selected):

Adweek, USA

Advertising Age, USA

Archive, USA

Black Book Magazine, USA

Blind Spot, Issue Four, USA

Commercial Photo, Japan

Common Cause, UK

Financial Times Magazine, UK     

Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 February, 2002, AUSTRALIA

Harpers Bazaar, USA

High Fashion, Japan

ID Magazine, UK

NPR,100 Words:Photographers Speak, August 9, 2010, USA

Phillips de Pury, NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 12 December 2009, USA

Photo/Design ,USA

PLANET Magazine, USA

Rolling Stone, USA

Seed, Canada

So It Goes, Issue 2, November 2013, UK   

The New York Times, March 12, 2000, USA

The Sunday Times Magazine, September 1997, UK

Vanity Fair, USA

Vibe, USA

Visura Magazine, Issue 9, April 2010, USA

Vogue, USA          



Deutsch Harper’s Bazaar, Germany

Deutsch Vogue, Germany

Lei, Italy

L’Uomo Vogue, Italy

MannerVogue, Germany

Marie Claire, Italy

Marie Claire, UK

Max Magazine, Italy

Per Lui, Italy

Spin, USA

Uomo Bazaar, Italy

Vogue Sposa, Italy


ADVERTISING (selected):

Adidas, UK

Anheuser Busch, USA

Audi, UK

Austin Reed, UK

Barney’s, USA

Bloomingdales, USA


Bristol-Myers Squibb, USA

British Airways, USA

Cacharel, France

Cafe Luxembourg, NYC, USA

Donghia, USA

Dunhill, UK

GFT, Italy

The Heartland Co., USA

Jessica McClintock, USA

Levitra, USA

Maltesers, UK

Martell Cognac/Global Campaign, USA

MasterCard, USA

Matsuda/Monsieur Nicole, Japan

Mazda, Japan

Mercedes Benz, USA


Mimmina, Italy                         

Mulberry, UK

Princess Hotels, USA

Robert Mondavi, USA

Smithsonian Institute, USA

SODECI, Ivory Coast, West Africa

Swaine Adeney, UK

Timex, USA

Toyota, Japan

Zack Carr, USA



Communication Arts Photography Annual, Award of Excellence, 2001, USA

Communication Arts Photography Annual, Award of Excellence, 1999, USA

Communication Arts Photography Annual, Award of Excellence, 1995, USA

The Eleventh Annual American Photography Competition, Certificate of Excellence,1995, USA

Studio Magazine Annual Awards, Merit Award for Excellence in Creativity, USA, 1992

The Art Directors Club 70th Annual Exhibition Merit Award, USA, 1991   

Communication Arts Advertising Annual, Award of Excellence, USA, 1991

Ceba Award for Excellence, USA, 1990



UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C, 2013

The Timbaktu Collective, Andhra Pradesh, India, 2005

Action on Disability and Development, India, 1990

Action on Disability and Development, Burkina Faso, 1991  



Southeast Asia, Documentation: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, 2014

India, Documentation of a Land, Culture and People, 2005

Peru, Documentation of a Land, Culture and People, 2005

Turkey Documentation: Istanbul and Cappadocia Region, 2000

West African Masque Series (personal work), Burkina Faso, 1991,     

Ivory Coast, 1992, 1994, 1995, Mali, 2001