Last month I was fortunate enough to shoot another assignment for Al Jazeera America. I was also, once again, fortunate to work with reporter Tammy Kim and editor Vaughn Wallace. This time Tammy was tackling a commentary about the economy of Detroit via the migration of automotive workers to the professional world of styling hair utilizing Hair Wars as a vehicle.
I try to take something away from every assignment I shoot. We see many things in the news, in literature, on television, hear in music, about racism. About discrimination. A lot of the time it's "understood" and, hopefully, we know and realize that it's wrong. Admittedly, I felt very odd shooting this assignment. I was in an environment that I knew absolutely nothing about and I was the awkward white dude in the room. It was inevitable that race would be brought up. I can't even begin to understand how it must've felt to live in a time when racism was generally accepted and to be on the receiving end of things. When a 60 year old African American man looks you in the eye and says, "All the way through school, you know what I read on the walls? 'Black nappy-hair ugly nigger," it's heartbreaking. It's humbling. I felt incredibly privileged to be there. To be allowed inside. To be invited to the conversation. To make images of a small slice of someone's life. You never know what someone is going, or has gone through, so a little bit of humility and willingness to learn goes a long way.
I had an absolute blast making these images, learning a bit about hair styles/styling and meeting the folks that partake. Whether it be behind or in the chair.