“Can I Touch It?”: Endia Beal’s Corporate Portraits Of White Women With Black Hair Styles (PHOTOS)
Photographer Endia Beal spoke to Slate’s David Rosenberg about her new project “Can I Touch It?”, photographs of white, middle-aged women wearing black women hairstyles. The work is powerful and speaks on a number of levels about gender, race and perception in the work place.
Below, Beal details her process and the challenges she faced.
“I said, ‘I am going to give you a black hairstyle,’ and they were like, ‘You’re going to give me cornrows?’ And I said, ‘No, we’re going to do finger waves.’ ‘Finger waves? What’s that? You mean from the ’20s?’ And I said, ‘These are a little bit different type of finger waves!’ ”
“I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experienced in that space. And to a degree, many young white women have shared that experience, but for older white women it’s an experience they haven’t necessarily had.”
“I wanted to allow someone to feel something different, to experience something they never had before, and through that experience, they felt uncomfortable. And then to talk about it kind of amplifies that feeling.”
“Some of them wanted to wear [their hairstyles] out, and some wanted to go home. Many of them said, ‘I can’t wait to get home and show my husband!’”