Black Artist Photographs White Women Wearing ‘Black’ Hair Styles

Artist Endia Beal produces transgressive series of photographs

By Akiba Solomon Oct 15, 2013

In the not-sure-what-to-think category comes the work of Endia Beal, a black artist who convinced a group of mostly middle-aged white women to get so-called black hairstyles such as fingerwaves and cornrows and then pose for corporate-style portraits.  

"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," Beal told "Slate" of the baby boomers who posed for her series titled "Can I Touch It?"

Beal produced "Can I Touch It?" during a short-term residency with the Center for Photography at Woodstock. But this isn’t her first racially transgressive piece involving hair. From Slate:

Some of these ideas first came to Beal while she was interning in the IT department at Yale while she was there getting her M.F.A. in photography. Beal is tall and black, and at the time she was sporting a large red afro that stood out among her colleagues, who were mostly shorter white males. One colleague told her about a rumor circulating around the office that many of the men were curious about her hair and wanted to touch it.

Being an artist and not wanting to shy away from her afro–or what Beal called "the elephant in the room"–she asked the men to not only touch her hair but to really pull it. She then recorded them a week later on video talking about what was for many of the men a new experience. 

See more images from "Can I Touch It?" at Slate.