Raw, Authentic Self: A portrait series/essay

The end of the lighting photography course is here and I feel as though as a photographer I’ve grown at least half a decade. I went from feeling like a baby photog to being comfortable (and even a little addicted) to studio and strobe lighting. The  way you create things out of nothing has been something that has drawn my interest as a visual creative, so taking that ideal to exponetial heights by creating a socially aware project on the natural hair movement among African American and biracial women has been my baby this semester, a labor of love.

I’m forever appreciative of the faculty and support system that have fostered the environment and skillset for me to be able to create this project. The support throughout has been incredible. So, here it is. My portrait series, shot with a borrowed grey backdrop, one to two Dynalights on light stands, a single reflective umbrella, and a Nikon camera.

Lighting Diagram


African American Women “challenging” societal norms with the “radical” notion of letting their hair grow, naturally.

In the 60s a cultural movement called “Black is Beautifyl strove to counter the discrimanatory narrative that black people and their features — skin color, facial features and hair — were considered grotesque.

The movement centered around ending the severe social pressure for black individuals to chemicallt alter their skin and hair (relaxer/perm and skin bleaching).

In the 60s and 70s the “Black Power Movement” took political, social and philosophical lengths to gain black empowerment and change the second class citizen status that was socially oppressing the black community.

The movement targeted changing the way the black community viewed itself, and the way society at large viewed and treated black individuals in America.

In 2017 the social norm of what is seen as beautiful, professional and even acceptable is still based on white American standards. And while the “Natural Hair Movement” is gaining interest, a eurocentric hierachy still exists within the movement placing higher value on looser curls and lighter skin over tighter curls, locs or darker skin.

An attempt to still control black bodies, divide the movement and pillage black culture.

“The beauty of my people is so thick and intricate. I spend days trying to undo my eyes so I can sleep” — Nayyirah Waheed.


Whitney Matewe


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