If you’ve been in Richter’s Digital Media Lab this semester, you’ve likely seen some iconic images hanging on the walls. The photos are subtle, showing Black hair in its natural state, yet powerful, as they send visual messages that are relevant in today’s racially tense society. This is exactly what photographer and University of Miami student, Alexis C. McDonald, wanted to capture.
McDonald, a Plus One Scholar studying Electronic Media and Africana Studies, is an artist from Atlanta, GA. Her displayed photographs, which were showcased at the United Black Students House of Black Culture last year, are a continuation of a final project from her 2015 Documentary Photography class.
THE REASON, THE ROOTS
Regarding her inspiration behind her work, she says, “I was compelled to take these photographs in 2015, after watching the show Being Mary Jane and its discussion surrounding Black women.” She goes on to describe a particular episode in which “activist Michaela Angela Davis said the magic of Black women exist[s] in the fact that Black women come in different shades, but race and culture are the things that unite them… I decided to embark on this journey of showing that magic.”
And magic is exactly what McDonald created through her images and their corresponding titles–her bold red afro being a reflection of her inner fire to tell stories through writing and photography.
With other forms of artistry surrounding the topic (like Solange Knowles’ “Don’t Touch My Hair”) starting waves of discussion, it’s no doubt that Black hair is a huge point of interest.
McDonald says the photos are still relevant two years after her initial project “because Black hair is still being ostracized and appropriate[d].” She supports her statement by adding, “earlier this year, the U.S. courts determined that it is not discriminatory to refuse employment or fire an employee who has dreadlocks. Usually images of Black hair in braids or dreadlocks are seen on the criminals on the evening news; however, having these images displayed in the library helps to counter that narrative of criminality and showcase the beauty and humanity of these styles”.
In a world where image is everything, hair speaks volumes. To portray Black hair in its rawness is bold and inspiring.
THE OFFICIAL REVEAL
Morgan McKie, the Multimedia Specialist of the Digital Media Lab, saw the spark in McDonald’s work, resulting in its display on Richter Library’s walls. Though the images speak powerfully on their own, McDonald officially showcased her work to the world last Thursday during her Black Hair Magic discussion and reception held at the library.
Not forgetting to include Black men’s hair in her speech, she described her inspiration to an audience nearing 30 people. The podium she initially stood behind was unable restrict her from walking confidently in front of listeners and emoting her passion with her hands to engage with her charismatic intensity. After speaking, she answered questions and lead the intrigued listeners to view her images in person.
If your FOMO is making you sad that you weren’t able to attend the showcase, have no fear. The photographs will be displayed in the Digital Media Lab for the rest of the semester! Check them out, and head over to alexiscmcdonald.com to view more of McDonald’s work.