With natural hair situating itself at the forefront of many fashion, style and cultural debates recently, the challenge to its status as a work of art has hardly been a topic of mainstream media coverage. The place of natural black hair in art and throughout history has often switched between faux pas and trendy with an emphasis on the political and social implications. The marginalization of natural hair as rare and difficult to handle has improved a bit from the lack of natural hair stylists for women of color on the runway to the sometimes ridiculous presentation of natural hair in the media, but there will always be a real need for more exposure to positive representations. Now there is another piece to add.
A recent effort from a young American artist has carried on the tradition of honoring natural hair in all of its full-bodied, coily glory through a compilation of poignant images.
“The Coiffure Project” is a striking, minimalist collection of portraits featuring 10 subjects in both black-and-white and full color photographs by Baltimore-based photographer Glenford Nunez. The 25-year old founder and photographer of Trust Your Photographer Studio has been featured in publications including Baltimore Sun, and prominent online media outlets including NPR and The Huffington Post. He was inspired by his assistant after realizing he had unintentionally taken and collected a number of pictures of her and her stunning natural hair. That fateful inspiration turned a simple aesthetic pleasantry into the beautiful collection viewable on his website with the hopes of turning the photographs into a coffee table book.
Coily-headed, natural girls all over the world can be encouraged by the images which capture the simplistic beauty of being without the optical interference of a gaudy background or even more than one subject per shot. Each image is a distilled moment in time and captures the relaxed environment. The images range from casual to couture, women posing in tanks tops or jean jackets, tugging at their hair or contorting into an effortless backbend. In one color photograph, a model stares powerfully and seriously into the camera, fingertips touching her chin, her hair piled in a thick faux hawk style.
The best aspect of “The Coiffure Project” is the range of textures and styles of the women’s hair. There’s everything from big afros to maturing TWAs, tight coils to endless curls and loose waves. With studies that have shown that a shocking majority of women don’t like their hair, visual meditations like Nunez’s thoughtful photography project are the sort of image activism necessary to incite more and more women to embrace their natural hair. Creative gestures like these serve a purpose — they allow everyone a chance to see reflections of themselves, their friends or relatives in the world around us in a careful, deliberate way.
Want to see more of “The Coiffure Project?” Go to Kickstarter.com to support Nunez's upcoming exhibition!
What do you think of these photographs? What are some other types of media art you would like to see featuring people with natural hair?