By now the name Ananda Khan shouldn't be unusual to you (those of you who read this or look at the crew lines on most of my projects/instagram): Ananda is an incredibly talented hair and makeup artist currently represented by Big Leo and a long time member of my creative team. Over the past several years of working together we have become very close friends, and a huge part of our relationship is that she is one of my many feminist touchstones (even though that word makes her a little twitchy, we're still working on that). We've had many a conversation surrounding the themes of feminism and equality in media and how we approach those issues in our careers. She has told me several stories about feeling as though she was hired because the client had booked one or two black models to walk in a runway show, or how she was told at the beginning of her career not to put too many black girls in her book because it would make her look unprofessional when she was already going to be judged on her appearance.
Just like pretty much every other woman on the planet we have both worked hard to come to a place of self appreciation and acceptance; to reconcile that our physical appearance is not the most important thing that we offer the world, and is not the basis of our worth. It has also taken years to appreciate our individual beauty as something to be cherished, and I remember when she was telling me these stories that I hated the idea of defining beauty in such narrow terms.
Working in this industry I have been told that I am contributing to anorexia and self loathing everywhere, and while on the one hand I see that to be a gross oversimplification of the issues (as this involves social norms, economics and cultural bias perpetuated not only by media's creators, but also its consumers), on the other hand I see my position as a photographer as an opportunity to shape and contribute to our ongoing discourse.
Early last year I collaborated with Ananda Khan on a beauty editorial for Downtown Magazine. I loved the challenge of shifting my perspective from fashion to beauty and after that shoot I knew this was an area I wanted to continue to explore. So during all these conversation we came up with the idea of putting together an ongoing beauty project featuring women of color, every color. We wanted to show that beauty isn't the domain of one race or one culture, and that modern fashion does not lose anything by being inclusive and is an opportunity to challenge the viewer to expand their own opinions of beauty.
This is the first installment of a project we are calling Beauty Knows No Color, which explores contemporary themes and trends in modern editorial beauty. We photographed this story together last fall when we initially conceptualized the project, then, as often happens, we got busy and life got in the way. We are now revisiting this and a couple other larger projects that we will roll out over the next few months. Keep a lookout for the hashtag: #BeautyKnowsNoColor for behind the scenes shots and images from the finished stories. I look forward to sharing more from this and updates from our other upcoming adventures. I hope you enjoy!