Walking in Ambiguity - Dianne Hofner Saphiere

dianne hofner saphiere walking in ambiguity Nov 15, 2021

Walking in Ambiguity

Dianne Hofner Saphiere

Portions of the following are based on an interview with the artist on June 17, 2021

The image of the 3 women is an example of a time when life can get confusing and push you a bit off balance. The artist had been photographing the Ferris wheel and fireworks at Chicago’s Navy Pier and needed to take a pedestrian tunnel to get to the other side of a busy highway. It was a journey through the dark night into the light of the tunnel that produced sudden sensory overload. The tunnel was a cacophony of noise from the traffic above, rainbow colors lined up with intensity on the side walls, the lights on the messy overhead ceiling were exceedingly bright and had attracted a cloud of bugs. She immediately captured this powerful experience with her camera.

When Saphiere started working on this image in Light Room, she saw a pretty little, inner-city tunnel with some rainbow colors and a few people. The viewer is entering the tunnel image behind the women. Light Room, like Adobe Photo Shop and others, is where a photographer can manipulate images electronically just as they were done much earlier in a dark room with chemicals. It is a stage in the process where many creative insights occur—this artist referred to it as “painting” her photographic images. Creating the final image is a series of decisions. Saphiere blurred the walls and floor making the trio seem solid while all around them is fluid. That is where the title: Walking in Ambiguity came from. She decided to keep the man who was walking a bit further along in the tunnel because without him, the image looked too contrived. She kept the hazy line of lights on the top right, the neater white line of lights on top left, and the black lines they added dimension to the floor. The result: an image that encapsulated how she felt as she entered that tunnel. Her reaction to this experience embodied a life skill: being all right with ambiguity in this world of ours, learning to make space, listening to, and holding onto the ambiguities in life.

 Born in Wisconsin, Saphiere enjoyed a legacy she called an “artistic eye.” While taking care of a family of 5 youngsters, her mother created drawings in charcoal. Saphiere’s father she labeled a Renaissance man who among other pursuits was a gemologist and a master carpenter and she considered him clearly to be an artist. Saphiere holds an M.S. in Organization and Human Resource Development and a B.A. in International Studies. However, starting out to obtain a degree in civil engineering (she was always a logical, organized person) and in Spanish, she was challenged by an Asian college roommate to learn Japanese. She recalled that this was the first thing she decided to learn that she was not immediately good at! She subsequently spent 12 years in Japan as well as living in Spain. 

Traveling and living overseas turned her interests toward intercultural work. At this point she has worked with people from over 130 nations. Her creative streak led her to develop interactive training, especially simulation games. Her intercultural and DEI career reads like a primer on how to be an interculturalist. She was a faculty member of the Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland teaching at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) for 28 years. In addition, she taught at the Intercultural Development Research Academy in Milano and the Universitat de Valencia. Her client list includes ABB, Hyundai-Kia, Microsoft, Mitsui, Royal Dutch Shell, Schneider Electric, Telecom New Zealand, and Texas Instruments, among many others, as well as universities and study abroad organizations worldwide. In 1994 she received the Interculturalist Award for Achievement from the International Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research (SIETAR International).

Dianne is a frequent author. Communication Highwire: Leveraging the Power of Diverse Communication Styles, was co-authored with Barbara Kappler Mikk and Basma Ibrahim DeVries and published by Intercultural Press. Her other works include Ecotonos: A Simulation of Multicultural Collaboration, now issued in its 15th anniversary packaging; Redundancía: A Foreign Language SimulationShinrai: Building Trusting Relationships with Japanese ColleaguesDoing Business with Japanese DIVERSOPHY; and contributions to peer-reviewed publications such as the International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Global Competence: 50 Training Activities for Succeeding in International Business, The Training and Performance Sourcebook, and The Pfeiffer Annual. Founder of the well-received and actively engaging Intercultural Insights blog, she also initiated the seminal Cultural Detective series.

Her development as a photographer was linked to her intercultural work, getting pictures of the interesting people and places during her travels. Saphiere began her intercultural work in 1979 and after 40 years determined that cycle was done, so she moved wholeheartedly into photography. Winner of photography awards, her work has been published and exhibited in 23 countries.

Currently living in Mexico, I asked her why Mazatlán? While at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA she, and friends would take the train from Nogales to Mazatlán as an adventure and to get away for a break. When she met the man, who would become her husband, it turned out that he had also gone with colleagues from work to Mazatlán and they realized that both had fallen in love with each other and that beautiful city.  Married on the beach in Mazatlán, they returned frequently to vacation. Saphiere wrote that they moved permanently to Mazatlán primarily in order to give our son Danny a second language and the experience of living life as a minority. We have learned a lot, and we continue making mistakes, enjoying our lives, working hard, and learning more every day.” She considers her photography a blessing for helping her see what the eye does not always see so well and for giving her the opportunity to meet so many interesting people around the world.

Sandra M. Fowler, Editor

The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA

Dianne Hofner Saphiere