Isn't It Beautiful

Emerald Arguelles

2020 - Ongoing

“Isn’t It Beautiful?” was created over ten weeks in Savannah, Georgia. My own experience growing up in beauty salons and barber shops was the inspiration of the series. “Isn’t It Beautiful?” received its’ title from Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver’s interview, where she spoke on the Black is Beautiful movement, the process, and the importance of Black women loving themselves in their natural state.

“Isn’t It Beautiful?” encompasses the complexities, culture, beauty, and hustle of Black men and women in the South. The series followed barbers, hairstylists, and the men and women that were serviced in those spaces. Beauty salons and barbershops are the cornerstones to every Black community. As a child, my mother did hair for 12 hours. Twelve hours of greasing, braiding, twisting, coloring, and sewing while I swept the hair around her feet, carefully to not sweep her feet because of its bad luck. Every person that came into her door came for conversation, advice, and reformation. However, gentrification in American Black communities has been suffering attempts of erasure.

The series references Black Madonna’s, wise elders of the South, beauty salon and barbershop advertisements, and generation lineage of barbers and hairstylists. All the images were shot on 35mm Black, and White film developed and printed myself. This process was essential because of the delicacy and care required to develop film, correlating to the necessary delicacy and care of the hairstylists and barbers.

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