The Beauty of Black Dark Skin

My latest work explores the way this society attributes beauty to race and how it has set our society’s beauty standards, which leads to people who are of darker skin tones being underrepresented. My work explores the lack of diversity and representation of black culture in the media, and the effects that it has on colourism. I have focused on photographing Afrocentric features, with the purpose of showing my audience, the beauty in dark skin. My photographs are statements and declarations of cultural pride and identity.

The idea of attributing beauty to race has been around for centuries – it’s impossible to deny that ingrained and structural inequality exists. Colourism plays a large role in the media and it leads to people who are of darker skin tones being underrepresented. Every form of media, from magazines to the internet, displays a standard of beauty it believes that everyone should be. Black women are particularly vulnerable to the effects of European standards of beauty, because these standards emphasize skin colors and hair types that exclude many black women, especially those of darker skin. Using factual information and my personal experience as a black woman, this project explores how it feels to be dark skin in a society obsessed with fair skin, and the black woman’s internalization of European beauty standards through the media and society, and the related outcomes of this internalization on self-perception, academic achievement, employment, and mental health.  

For inspiration, I looked at my culture and my tradition, which will influence my images, in terms of the outfit and accessories that my models will wear.  I specifically looked at West African black culture, because I’m from Gambia and Senegal, West Africa, and the part of Africa that I can represent more accurately. I also did some background research on my country’s culture and tradition to learn more about it. The main photographers that I looked at for inspiration were Zanele Muholi and Omar Victor Diop, mainly because they are black African photographers and their work is also insipired by their race and culture. I also looked at the practitioner Zhang Jingna because she also creates stunning photographs that are influenced by her culture and tradition. I will also looked at photographers such as Vivian Sassen, Vanessa Myricks and Itaysha Jordan, because they mainly photograph black people, and by analysing their photographs and their technique, I gained knowledge on photographing black dark skin people effectively, as because it can be quite hard.

I have photographed dark skin models and focused on photographic models with Afrocentric features, to emphasize my message that black dark skin is beautiful, and to show that they are as presentable as light skinned models are. The media also lacks representation of black culture, so with my images I am representing black culture through fashion, with the purpose of educating my audience. I want my audience to look at my images and to see the beauty in dark skin. So I have shot my models in a way which emphasises the colour of their skin, making it the focal point of each photograph. My work aspires to combat colourism and have a positive impact on our society, by trying to change the standards of beauty, which will empower black dark skin women. 

This project has empowered me as a black dark skin woman, because it has made me realize that the stereotype and the views on black dark skin people can be manipulated as it has been until now. I have seen the how my photographs have impacted people, because I have effectively communicated the message that black dark skin is beautiful. This shows me the power that I have as an artist to challenge my audience’s thoughts and views, and it motivates me to carry on with this project and aim to have a bigger impact on a bigger audience. The outcome of this project has been greater than I’ve had imagined, it has shaped me as an artist. I am very passionate about carrying on with this project as it is quite personal, and I am currently planning on exploring this topic and creating more photographs and

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