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The images above stand as a personal investigation of black hair. Exploring its value within black culture along with its perception in society. In the past and often times today there is a subliminal idea implanted into the minds black women since childhood that black hair needs to be altered; othering blackness, feminity and the danger of non-blackness. Hairstyles used to indicate a person's marital status, age, religion, ethnic identity, wealth and rank within the community. So when you’re dealing with the subject of black hair, you’re also taking on the issue of the U.S. attitude towards black women more broadly.

Due to the weight of the damage done by years of conditioning and miscommunication, I find it important and still relevant that these issues be exposed. Questioned through images and self-reflection. Highlighting the beauty, forms, and styles of black hair influenced by the times and black culture. Using 35mm black and white film, a series of six self-portraits printed on 8x10 fiber selenium toned paper illustrates my sentiments and personal experience with black hair.

Outside of the occasional experiments with weave my hair is most always worn straight or in its natural wavy state. And because my natural black hair texture falls under the fictitious “good grade” of hair I grew up being constantly reminded by other black women that I didn’t black hair, that I couldn’t understand having to “deal with black hair”. Yet despite this consensus that my curly hair is aesthetically and socially preferable, it was never styled as such during my childhood. Like other African American families my parents too believed that my natural hair texture was not socially appropriate. It was a weekly ritual to wash and blow out my hair for school every Sunday night without fail. Even as an adult I receive negative comments from my elders regarding my unruly appearance should it not be laid straight. It was then that became obvious to me that hair is not just something to play with, it is something that is laden with messages, and it has the power to dictate how others treat you, and in turn, how you feel about yourself.  

Through this series only scratches the surface of a deep psychological hole; the hope of these photographs is to raise questions and realign this systematic problematic with its true source of origin. Which unfortunately resides within the same home as the women it effects. 

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chriss clark1 Comment