Can I Touch It? – Photo Project Explores the Taboos of Hair

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October 28, 2013 by gabnormal

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Photo credit: Endia Beal

Curly, straight, dyed, permed, cut and pulled tight, black, white; many women go to extensive lengths (no pun intended) to get their hair the way they want it, or to get it the way that their employer wants it. For women with wild, unruly locks, this has always caused a problem, in the workplace and outside of it.

Photographer Endia Beal explored the taboos of hair, specifically black hair, with her project called “Can I Touch It?” The title is a question that many black women, especially those who have natural hair, get on a regular basis.

This project reminds us of the little black girl who got in trouble by her school for having dreads.

Beal took black hairstyles and put them on white women, who she then dressed in corporate business attire to take their portrait. The idea was to illustrate the otherness that can be felt in an office space, which are more often than not inhabited by white men.

The history of black hair is a complex one, and one that is still an understandably touchy subject today. Afros, going back to the Black Panther movement, often are associated with a militant, albeit offbeat lifestyle that is in direct contrast to the white corporate office. Many employers frown upon Afros, forcing the people who wear them to either change their hairstyle or lose their job.

Can I Touch It? doesn’t just spark controversy, it starts a conversation about black hair, what it means and doesn’t mean, and the fact that it should be accepted in the workplace.

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