I have just been reading the May 2017 issue of the British Journal of Photography and was very interested in the work of Endia Beal.
In light of recently researching Nikki S Lee and her work (Projects 1997-2001) where she adopts the persona of different sub cultures and ‘transforms’ herself into a ‘punk’ , a’ schoolgirl’ a ‘senior’, a ‘tourist’ or ‘skateboarder’. To do this she observed the groups’ appearance, dress, gestures and mannerisms in order to blend in with them and effectively change her identity to fit with theirs. Here is a link to my post on Nikki S Lee.
Beal in her work, ‘Am I what you are looking for’, approaches identity in the opposite way. Specifically highlighting women of colour and the prejudices they face in the work environment she asks her subjects to dress as they would for an interview. Instead of asking them to ‘transform’ themselves appropriately to fit into the corporate stereotype ‘box’ she is asking ‘which ‘box’ do I fit in to? Do I fit into the corporate image sufficiently for you to employ me? She is highlighting the effects of workplace discrimination against black women.
Photograph by Endia Beal
Am I what you are looking for?
The message from both these photographers is around stereotyping and, fitting in to different cultures; how, to be accepted (into the workplace, or the punk group) a person has to adopt the ‘appropriate’ appearance and codes (whether corporate or, or anti establishment, say).
Beale has also mixed things up a bit by asking two white women to dress in plain corporate clothes and asking them to attend a ‘black’ salon to have their hair styled. Beal is challenging what you are ‘supposed to look like in the workspace’ and is giving these white women an idea of the experience that she, as a black woman has encountered. (Slate Magazine, 2018)
Photograph by Endia Beal
Can I touch it?
It made me think again of the ‘boxes’ that I fit into personally. Sometimes I am in my ‘work box’ where I dress ‘for the office’ smartly, not revealing, freshly washed hair, perfume, handbag and so on and I speak and act in a professional way using accepted jargon that an outsider wouldn’t understand. Sometimes I am in my ‘gym box’. Casual tight clothes, gym bag, trainers (couldn’t wear these in the office despite their comfort), hair in a pony tail.
I am inspired to consider this further as a potential subject for assignment 3 Putting yourself in the picture.
Slate Magazine. (2018). Corporate Portraits of White Women With Black Hairstyles. [online] Available at: http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2013/10/15/endia_beal_can_i_touch_it_explores_gender_race_and_generational_gaps_in.html [Accessed 3 Jan. 2018].