During the AA2A residency, I will be collaborating with a social researcher Olubusola Ojo, who is a former student of Sunderland university, by producing a series of photographic images inspired by the written body of work (Mental Slavery or Fashion Trend: Accessing the impact of skin colour stratification on the cultural phenomenon of skin bleaching or lightening: A British study) a research she has undertaken recently at the Goldsmiths University of London for her master’s degree.
The investigation explores the ideology that light skin or anything close to whiteness is more beautiful or civilised in comparison to darkness which represents ugliness and savagery. Therefore, it explores if the phenomenon of skin bleaching as a result of mental slavery, a consequence of European slavery and colonisation, or as part of a fashion trend like that of tanning or tattooing, which is linked to the modern realisation of the creation of an individualised cosmopolitan identity.
I want to raise awareness about skin bleaching as a consequence of inter-racial and intra-racial colour discrimination which is often referred to as colour stratification or colourism. I want enquire about racial self- perception in relation to important contributory factors such as education, beauty trends and the media, which are described by academics as mediums used for the sustenance of a system of privilege through the patronage of capitalist exploitation in support of the maintenance white supremacy.
Although in the United Kingdom, skin lightening treatments are available as a cosmetic procedure in the form of chemical peels, skin lightening creams and laser treatment to remove blemishes, birthmarks and dark patches; it does, however, come with a serious warning and is left to the discretion of individuals and their doctors. This is because of the risks and serious side effects linked to using these treatments. Skin lightening creams often contain ingredients such as hydroquinone and steroids/corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone which are banned in the UK unless prescribed by a doctor. Nevertheless, as a result of the ineffectual regulation of these products, they are easily assessable from any Asian or African stores and through many online outlets such as eBay and Amazon.
Through previous conversations undertaken between Ojo and I, as well as between Ojo and volunteers from a diverse range of backgrounds, races and ages I feel a necessity to take her research to the next level in order to inspire people to share their stories and experiences with wider audiences through the medium of photography.
By using traditional colour photography technique, sound and text I want to build a safe studio environment and produce series of images examining and echoing intense experiences of diverse individuals and the relationships that they share with their own bodies.
I want to produce a relevant body of work that could be exhibited or made into a book that would be an inspiring material for younger generations or people who are struggling with their own identity and their body image.
While raising concerns that are still painfully relevant but hidden from our society I want to expose the spoken and unspoken truths behind racism, colourism and the use of skin-lightening techniques that can result in serious side effects and complications as well as illuminate on the uncomfortable situations, the mental chaos and the significant influence that the mass media has on the whole process.
In my portraits, I want to portray emotions and sincere feelings while celebrating colour and racial diversity. I hope that the time spent at the Northern Centre of Photography will help me to develop my critical thinking skills and teach me mentoring. This opportunity I will utilise it to expand my portfolio and produce a new collaborative body of work.