Nakeya Brown uses visually captivating photography to open up a discussion on topics that affect blackness and womanhood. Her work The Refutation of "Good Hair" has been making its way around the interweb, igniting a dialogue on Black hair, and in some cases painful memories associated with natural hair. An artist who is bold enough to take on such a polemic subject in a noteworthy way, is one worth talking to. Each placement of items and acts by the models are purposeful, especially the choice to render these images in bold and light colors. Almost as if to illuminate these issues. Brown tells us more about where this inspiration stems from.
For those who are not aware of you and your work, please briefly introduce yourself and your work
My work is the visualization of the blackness, womanhood, and girlhood. My new approach, to using photography as a tool, is to tell these stories [that] transpired in 2012 after giving birth to my lovely and lively 2-year-old daughter, Mia. I correlate the rebirth of my work to the birth of her. It has been the single most reflective occurrence I have ever experienced in life. Currently I live in New Jersey and work in New York. I’ve shown my work in New Orleans, Chicago, and Washington D.C. A few other random facts, I have a deep affinity for mustard yellow, thrifting, and house-music.
Your work The Refutation of “Good Hair” has been making its way around the internet and stirring discussing. Can you tell us more about that series and the story behind it?
I created The Refutation of Good Hair over the summer of 2012. The idea came to me during a quite moment with my daughter Mia, who was a few weeks old at the time. I remember staring at her little body as I rocked her to sleep. Eventually I made my way to her hair and it was very, very, soft, fine, and straight. It was unlike mine, unlike her fathers, and I knew eventually her newborn hair texture would change. I would love her hair in all of its forms, but would society as well? That was a question I asked myself and The Refutation of Good Hair was a way for me to try and formulate an answer. I made the project to visualize the racialized codes of beauty and the perception of the Black female body.
What has been some of the biggest influence for you as an artist?
Constructing a visual biography about Black womanhood has been the biggest influence in the work I create. As I mentioned earlier, being a mother has been the leading agent in inspiring me to create work that is about imagining a black aesthetic.
Your new work is now published on the website. What inspired that series and what is next on the horizon for you?
I wanted to continue exploring the notion of beauty and blackness. During a thriting trip I cam across a retro Lady Schick Consollete portable hair dryer for $5. I was immediately attracted to the beauty of this device. At first, I thought I would photograph a Black woman with this device, but that seemed too easy of a solution. I started to gather the items that I had around my home and piece them together. I began creating a miniature, nostalgic “stage” of beauty products and their human by-products. This particular body of work is really about piecing together pictorial representations of Black women and objects to express a space that is our own.
What are some of the challenges creating your work? What have you had to overcome to get to produce this work?
Finding time to create the work tends to be a recurring challenge. As a mother, full-time employee, sister, friend, partner, etc, my free time is constantly up for negotiation. In the end, setting Sunday mornings aside for rest and creation has been the perfect resolution.
What are some of the odd jobs you have done that allow you to do what you love?
I’m a photo agent at Apostrophe, a boutique agency in New York City representing commercial photographers. That really helps finance my ongoing creative projects.
Of all of your creative projects, which are you most proud of?
Thus far, The Refutation of Good Hair has been the project I am most proud of. It’s my first complete body of work along the themes of identity constructing and beauty. It’s garnered the attention of companies such as Carol’s Daughter and Afropunk. It’s been exhibited through out the U.S. and has been covered by international publications such as Tonelit and HYSTERIA.
Where would you most love to see your work exhibited?
The Studio Museum in Harlem. I would love to see my work in good company with other remarkable artists of color.