Complexion, a series of evocative portraits that attempts to capture the embodied contrasts of vitiligo, a skin condition that causes depigmentation on sections of skin.

In Africa, some people have used skin-lightening products to beautify themselves – with the notion that lighter skin tones are more beautiful. The notion of beauty thus has a strong relationship with skin color (race), and tones. The perception of beauty is in a constant state of evolution. How Africans identify with it now seems to reflect a westernized ideology in a contemporary life in the city. My works are about interrogating what it means to be black in modern day society.

For the series “complexion”, I photographed a number of people with vitiligo including African, mixed race (coloured), and Indians to better gain an understanding of how I perceive beauty away from conventional forms. I am intrigued by what beauty means to Africans, and I hope to explore this further in my work.

The portraits were taken in studio and models were not posed in any specific fashion. The purpose was to record the details and furthermore to capture the personality who bared the marks. I used harsh light, lending the images their detailed texture. All images were shot on large format photography film.

Metaphorically, I wanted to convey a sense of character, to illustrate a fusion of opposites (black vs. light), an element of the new South Africa, and the evolving dark to light skin that our general South African black culture seems to perceive as more attractive. More importantly the series is about creating increased awareness. The works seek to challenge conventional forms of beauty.

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