I used to be a lawyer.
In 2019, I quit my job as Legal Counsel for Spanx to pursue photography. Crazy? Maybe. But honestly, I think a little crazy is necessary sometimes.
The seed was planted about 5 years ago. I realized after almost 10 years of being a lawyer that it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It wasn’t my passion. It was like wearing clothes that didn’t fit. I knew there had to be something that was better tailored for me. So, I started looking for what that something might be. This search led me to take a closer look at what I really enjoyed doing … creating.
At that point, I was ready to take the leap. But I didn’t quite know at that time what I was leaping to. My journey toward figuring this out took me to a place called The Creative Circus (yes, it’s a real place) where I studied Art Direction for a bit, then Copywriting for a bit more. But before I was able to finish at the Circus, life happened. “Life” being that I was laid off from my job at a law firm, and had to withdraw. At that point, I hadn’t gotten far enough in my creative education to land a job that would pay the bills, so it was back to the legal world for me. Sigh …
After a long search for a role that wouldn’t bore the life out of me, I was offered a legal counsel role with Spanx. At the time, I thought that perhaps this role would allow me to somehow marry the legal and creative sides of my brain and maybe, just maybe, make me happy. And it did … for a few years.
But like anything else you bury, the creativity in me was suffocating. So much so that I started to hate my job. I was working in an incredibly energetic and creative place, but that wasn’t enough. I started dabbling in videography, clothing design, and art when I wasn’t at the office. But the dabbling didn’t satisfy the part of me that wanted to be creative all the time, not just on evenings and weekends.
A few years ago, a friend randomly gave me a Canon Rebel T3 camera after I randomly mentioned that I wanted to try photography. I was shocked and tried to reject the gift, but my friend insisted, and I eventually accepted. After watching a few YouTube videos, I snapped my first pic …
I. Fell. In. Love.
It only took me a month or so to determine that photography was the thing that fit. My perfectly tailored suit.
And I’ve been taking pictures ever since.
For centuries, Black women have been told that their natural hair, the way it grows from the scalp, isn’t quite right. Unprofessional. Unpretty. Unbecoming. Un … white.
For Black women growing up in the 80s and 90s, it was pretty common that our mothers straightened our hair at an early age. Memories of hot combs, and the ear/scalp burns that accompanied them, haunt many Black women. Since hot combs could only provide temporary results, “creamy crack” (a.k.a. relaxer) was used to achieve permanently straightened hair. This was pretty much the norm. Afros and other deeply textured styles weren’t considered attractive back then.
However, around 2006-2009 there was a massive “return to natural” movement. Many Black women began to embrace their natural hair. I was one such woman, and I know so many others. For many, this return to natural required courage. Many of us were met with resistance from family and friends, among others. Some of us had mothers and grandmothers who discouraged us. My hairdresser at the time asked me, “why in the world would you want to have nappy hair? That WILL NOT look good.” Beyond those personal interactions, we also had the prevalent beauty standard to contend with.
This return to natural also required that we learn how to care for our natural hair for the very first time. As adults, we had to figure out which products to use and watch YouTube videos to understand how to wash, detangle and style our hair. And now, this knowledge is being passed on to our daughters. Most women I know who have returned to natural have refused to straighten their own children’s hair. Rather, they have been passing on their relatively new hair knowledge to their children, as well as teaching them to celebrate their natural hair. Thus, for this documentary photography project, I want to capture “wash day” to show the beauty of this passing on of natural hair love and knowledge to the next generation of Black women.
While the pressure placed on Black women to conform to white standards of beauty is diminishing, it has yet to be fully eradicated. I want to tell this story because it speaks to this evolving beauty standard, while also educating others about the relationship that we as Black women have with our hair. There is a story embedded into every kink, curl, and wave, and I want to capture this story through photography.
To view more of Tomesha Faxio’s work please visit their website.