Seconded By: Selaru Ovidiu,
My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom
My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom is a celebration of the diversity, artistry, and power of
black women’s hair. This project is about highlighting the many ways in which black
women embrace their freedom of choice and express their creativity through their
hair, no matter the style or texture, whether they wear braids, locs, weaves, or whether
they wear it natural or straightened. With each portrait in this ongoing project, I seek
to recognize and honor black women’s power and beauty while celebrating blackness
and black lives.
Black women haven’t always enjoyed the freedom to wear their hair as they please.
Generally, African Americans have been subjected to centuries of racial hatred and
oppression in the United States. And when it comes to hair—historically and to this
day—black women have been policed and suppressed in numerous ways, including:
• The dehumanizing practice of shaving African women’s hair during slavery,
thus erasing signifiers of culture and identity.
• A 1786 Louisiana law requiring black women—both enslaved and free—to cover
their hair in public.
• The expectation that black women conform to European standards of beauty
by straightening their hair.
• Black girls being sent home from school in 2017, due to school policies that
deems their braids “inappropriate.”
• Black women losing or being denied jobs because their natural hair is too
“unprofessional” for today’s corporate environment.
For reasons, such as these, I feel this project is necessary.
I asked each woman who sat for “My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom” to share her
personal “hair story” with me. Working with a hair stylist and makeup artist, I could
achieve a style of hair that my sitter had worn, or would be willing to wear out into the
world today. Each woman’s skin was depicted with the same black tone to emphasize
the beauty of blackness, and serve as an equalizer to remove the potential for
prejudicial skin color biases, and make hair the focal point. Additionally, my selection
of decorative backgrounds was inspired by and includes several African prints.
Though some models received striking black backgrounds, I selected the colorful and
vibrant patterns for each person based on their individuality and the shapes and
colors in their hair.
It has been my mission, for the past forty years, to travel the world photographing
people from every culture and walk of life, capturing their beauty and their stories.
“My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom” is a very important part of this mission.