Amber Sykes in art major with a concentration in photography at Longwood. Through self-portraiture and still life photography, her work questions why people are discriminatory against natural black hair.
"Why do people discriminate against natural black hair? My hair has become very important to me recently. Learning to love my natural hair has been a long journey. I used to hide it and be ashamed of it, but it was all in the mind. I was made to believe that my hair wasn’t beautiful unless it was straight or hidden by fake hair. Later on in life when I learn to love my hair, I read about how hair discrimination is happening and how a law had to be passed in California to stop it. Why would anyone discriminate against hair? In my work, I want to answer that question by showcasing the beauty that black hair has to offer and also the struggle of having the hair and learning to accept it. I do this through self portraiture, portraiture, and still life. I photograph the hair, the process and the struggle. I like to focus on the texture of the hair to emphasize the individuality that is natural black hair. I use theatrics in my self portraiture to emphasize the struggle we face to learn to love our hair. Most of my images are theatrical. Most of them are staged, especially the self portraits, these images are thought out before captured.
Why is it that black people are the only people not allowed to wear their natural hair? I do this work because more and more black people are going natural and are learning to love their hair. However there are some that feel that our hair is “nappy”, “ugly”, and “untamable”, and I want to change their minds. I want to change the minds of the people discriminating against this personal choice. I want the viewer to feel what I feel for black people, especially women, that have gone through this journey of learning to love. The viewer needs to understand the journey and the process and that natural black hair is beautiful.
My work is closely related to the work of Nakeya Brown. Her work deals with racial and gender issues, and in some of her work, she used hair to emphasize the point. Her photos are centered around hair and beauty. She views hair as symbolic to African American women’s struggles to conform and hair is a way you can go against the status quo. In her younger years, her family used home styling, so that’s why most of her work is home-based. My work is also closely related to that of Lorna Simpson. Her work focuses on gender, identity, culture, and history. Her methodology borders on metaphor, biography, and portraiture. Our work is similar, but we take different approaches to showcase it."
Point of Departure is on view until May 31.