As a photographer, I like to brainstorm with new ideas whenever I possibly can. Black History Month is especially intriguing for me because I am married to a wonderful black man who was born and raised in Kenya, Africa. After visiting him in Kenya, I realized that life for the typical African American is nothing like life for a true African. Stepping into Africa is like stepping back in time. This is when I got the idea for a series of photos that represented black people today as they may have looked 200 years ago. As the models filed in that Sunday afternoon, little did I know the incredible amount of ignorance that I possessed.
Let’s discuss hair. My caucasian hair is very low maintenance. Just air dry, brush, and go. So, as I sat and watched these African American women and girls (whom I required to bring their COMPLETELY natural hair for the session) go through what seemed like hours of painful preparation pulling at their hair with a comb to tame their locks and make themselves feel presentable, I started to rethink my actions and question my motive.
The young woman
As the afternoon continued, I asked one of the male models who wore glasses to remove them for his photos and so he did just that. But his eyes immediately started watering once he removed them because he could no longer focus without them. I couldn’t take it any longer. I was so sorry to have put these people through this suffering for some silly idea that I had. That day, I only saw 5 models and I decided not to take any more. Why would anyone put a complete stranger through this?
The young man
But then it hit me. The reason it all started and the reason these strangers were happy to show up at my studio was simple. We were representing black history 200 years ago. To all of our African American brothers and sisters who came before us and were purposely prevented these basic needs… This is for you.
Identical twins Journee and Jeriyah
Preacher Stanley Ngumba
Licensed massage therapist Gabrielle Mattox
Photographer and writer Jervae Carter
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