Photographer Ednia Beal, who also is the brains behind the series “Can I Touch It” in which white women were photographed with traditional black hairstyles for corporate portraits has debuted a new series of photos entitled “Am I What You’re Looking For”
Beal elaborates on the inspiration behind the project on her website:
The photographic series, “Am I What You’re Looking For?” captures young minority women between the worlds of identity and conformity. Many of the women are college students who have not started their careers, yet have heard of the obstacles with being accepted that women of color face in traditional corporate America. These “transitional” photographs were taken in the home where the women grew up. They were asked to wear their “ideal” business professional attire, hairstyle and pose in front of a typical office backdrop. The women are asked to practice their performance like a mock interview. “I want you to pretend you’re waiting for your interview, how would you feel?” In that moment of contemplation, the camera snaps and their thoughts are revealed. Some of the women are uncertain, while others gaze directly into the camera with confidence. Although each woman presents a different attitude towards the question, the emotional range depicted reflects the feelings one may have in the office space. Can I be my true self without being judged? Ironically, these young, educated, minority women are in their authentic environments where they should feel comfortable. Yet, like many individuals confronted with the illusion of acceptance, they must ask, “Am I What You’re Looking For?”
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Beal, who is now an art professor at Winston-Salem State University explains her project echoed the concerns of many black students who are attempting to enter the work force:
“My students were coming to me, and they were like, listen, Professor Beal, I went on a job interview and they told me that my hair was unkempt. Or they told me I needed to change how I looked,” she recalled. “Your heels are too high, your skirt is too short, your earrings are too long. This is the advice they’re given, and this is the advice I was given.”
What are your thoughts on the photo series?