303 Magazine The Colorado Photographic Arts Center Hair Exhibition

Hair serves a different purpose for everyone, whether it’s a method of self-expression or embracing one’s true form. These different interpretations of hair are what the Colorado Center for the Photographic ArtsThe new exhibition of is all about. The work of five different artists is brought together in the six-week showcase, Hair culture.

Photo by Kiddest Metaferia.

Executive Director and Curator Samantha Johnson constantly prepares for new exhibitions by researching artists during reviews or when artists submit their work. From there, she proposes a theme and begins to select the artists that suit her. To take full advantage of the 2,500 square foot space, it usually groups together three to five artists.

“I feel like it allows us to have a greater reach, both in the community and on that side of the exceptional community across the country,” Johnston said.

The idea for the hair culture came about as Johnston looked at the work of artists and felt it related to topics that surround today’s society.

Samantha Johnston, Executive Director and Curator

“Hair is something that affects everyone, women and men, but I feel like for women in particular it affects us in a different way,” Johnston said. “How we look, go gray, all these different challenges that women face in society and how it affects our lives. It’s something that I feel like all of these artists really touch on.Each artist tackles a different topic related to hair. Here is the work you will see as you walk through the exhibition.

hair stories by Rohina Hoffman

Rohina Hoffman is a photographer based in Los Angeles, California. His project, hair stories, was born when she noticed hair inadvertently appearing in her work. From there, she asked why she felt drawn to hair and what it meant to her.

“I had my own hair story from childhood, which then paved the way for me to start asking other women about their stories,” Hoffman said.

Each interview began with the open-ended question, “tell me about your hair.” From there, the interviews lasted from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, delving into the stories and meanings behind each individual’s hair story.

There are a total of 37 women in the collection, all of different ethnicities, religions and backgrounds. Ages range from 14 to 100, and most subjects live in or around Los Angeles. Eight of the portraits were chosen for the exhibition. Each photo is accompanied by a QR code allowing viewers to listen to the interview.

“While doing this project I learned a lot about the different meanings of hair to different individuals, the power behind it, how it’s a metaphor for identity, feelings, control, and also acts as a social- political and can even be a religious construct,” Hoffman said. 303 Magazine, 303 Fashion, Lexi Riga, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Meaning Behind Hair, Kiddest Metaferia

A Study of modern hair by Tara Bogart

When Tara Bogart first came to France in 2011, she visited the National Library of France and was immediately attracted by the portraits of the famous photographer Nadar. A picture of a woman’s back came to her, and years later she was inspired to create images of what she thought that photo would look like today.

Before each portrait, Bogart avoided touching the subject’s hair. She aimed for the photos to look natural, as if they were out on the street and then had their picture taken.

“When you look at women, some of the things that I find very fascinating about them is that nothing ever repeats itself,” Bogart said. “Every time you take a picture of another woman, she’s so unique. They are so different and we don’t need to look at their faces.

The photos featured in CPAC are the most recent additions to the collection, taken when Bogart made an open call at an art hotel for people to pose for just one day. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with 61 women showing up.

“I was overwhelmed with the number of people waiting outside to have their picture taken,” Bogart said. “I felt very honored by that.” 303 Magazine, 303 Fashion, Lexi Riga, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Meaning Behind Hair, Kiddest Metaferia

Ditto by Inyang Essien

The title of Inyang Essien’s work translates to “hair” in Ibibio, a Nigerian language spoken by his parents. Her collection, as she describes it, is “heavily culturally influenced”, and each photo is representative of prominent Nigerian styles between the 60s and 90s.

“I started looking into these hairstyles and what exactly they meant,” Essien said. “Different hairstyles speak to identity…I really wanted to showcase different styles in my own way and add another element of culture.”

While some photos have great meaning about Essien’s life and past, others are simply inspired by shapes. Every piece is intentionally placed, including the hairline. The meanings behind each photo also extend to their backgrounds. For example, some use wax-based textiles, which are very common in Nigeria and other African countries.

“These hairstyles aren’t just things I invented myself, I always try to pay homage to the culture,” Essien said.

turn grey by Nancy Grace Horton

The inspiration for Nancy Grace Horton’s collection comes from a story where she lived in Aspen, Colorado in the 80s. Her roommate at the time was expecting their parents to come visit. As they enter, Horton notices the woman, not much older than her, with salt-and-pepper hair and great confidence.

“She just became my role model forever,” Horton said. “It was kind of that moment where I just felt like I was determined to let my hair be natural after seeing her.”

Horton aimed to highlight attitudes towards people about their gray hair, like how some jump through hoops to hide their roots or stress over a few silver hairs that show up. He also points out the differences between men and women and the fact that women generally don’t receive the same praise as men when it comes to aging.

When the idea came into action, it was during the height of COVID, so Horton struggled to find topics. Through a post on Facebook, it brought together 50 people interested in participating.

“The women really responded and wanted to tell stories and the stories are devastating and they’re funny and empowering and so they cover such a vast experience of what women have gone through going grey.”303 Magazine, 303 Fashion, Lexi Riga, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Meaning Behind Hair, Kiddest Metaferia

The haircut or… Learning to let go by DM Witman

DM Witman’s piece is different from the others because it was communicated in the form of a video. The idea was brewing before the pandemic and because the video was created solo, Witman was able to pull off the project in full force.

“I had never done a play, something that I wanted to do,” Witman said. “Not for teaching or as a teaching example, something that really allowed me to spread my wings.”

In many cultures there is an idea that cutting one’s hair is an expression of grief, so Witman’s interpretation was of cutting one’s hair as a method of dealing with ecological grief.

“My hope was just that maybe the extreme of going to this action of cutting and then shaving, maybe someone else could be a little freed up,” Witman said. “Acknowledge if they’re struggling with something, that it’s okay. Grieving is natural, it is part of life.303 Magazine, 303 Fashion, Lexi Riga, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Meaning Behind Hair, Kiddest MetaferiaHair culture expresses the multitude of ways in which hair can have meaning or be interpreted in society. The artists in the exhibition come together to show all the different aspects of individuals’ relationships with their hair and how it represents their unique identity.

The exhibit opened May 12 and will run through June 25 at 1070 Bannock Street in the Golden Triangle Creative District.

All photographs from Kiddest Metaferia.

Michael E. Marquez