A celebration of Black hair is at the forefront of the conversation for the latest photography book by Atlanta husband and wife duo Reg Bethencourt and Kahran Bethencourt.
GLORY is the first project created by the CreativeSoul Photography founders as a part of their new deal with St. Martin’s Press. The six-figure book deal they signed in 2018 came after they received national recognition for their AfroArt series, in which they empower and celebrate Black beauty and natural hair through striking and vibrant images of Black children.
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Their newest project, GLORY, continues to pay homage to this celebration of Black culture and hair through imagery, and now words. This book features not only a preface from Amanda Seales speaking to the power and necessity of these images, but also features backstories on the children they’re showcasing. Adding another layer to their narrative, Kahran says, makes their stories that much more relatable and accessible to Black and brown children they hope to reach in this series.
Kahran shared more about their hope for GLORY.
AI: So let’s get right into it. What are we going to see in GLORY that we haven’t seen in your AfroArt series?
KB: “In GLORY, we really dig into the stories behind the pictures. I wanted people to really get to know some of the kids behind the photos. Because some of them are doing really amazing things. We have one girl, who at the time was an 8-year-old neuroscience expert. Then we have Nila, who could read at age 2. Then a kid that has his pilot license at the age of 13. So there’s just a broad range of kids in the book. We address poverty and domestic violence, HBCUs, young boys going to the barbershop for the first time. There’s so many different topics we touch on.”
AI: How do you think these stories enhance your images?
KB: “I wanted a kid in South Africa to be able to see kids here in Atlanta and what they’re doing and vice versa. Growing up, I didn’t have kids I knew from other countries, so it’s really important for them to be able to see and expand their horizons of what is out there in the world.”
AI: How do the themes within your book of past, present and future correlate with how the Black community has responded to natural hair over the years?
KB: “I hear a lot from adults. Really, the conversation I think that I hear most is, ‘Wow, I really wish I had this growing up.’ I think a lot of them are just kind of looking at it with pride for the next generation. They say they’ll be gifting it to every Black kid they know, and say they are just enjoying seeing the next generation have conversations they weren’t always able to have.”
AI: One topic discussed in the book is the concept of “good hair,” based on your husband Reg’s experience of growing up biracial. How does GLORY refute that idea all together?
KB: “I don’t believe in the notion of ‘good hair.’ That was our takeaway from Reg’s note as well. He grew up half Filipino, half Black and his hair was always a little different. He never felt like he had ‘good hair,’ he felt all hair was good hair. That’s really the message we want kids to walk away with. Which is why we wanted to show a variety of textures and styles in this book. Whether it’s short or long, straight or whatever. I wanted kids to feel like, no matter what hair texture they have, it’s all ‘good hair.’”
AI: How do you see GLORY changing the conversation surrounding Black hair, and why do you think the use of imagery is the most effective?
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KB: “I hope readers are able to see the beauty and versatility of black kids across the African diaspora. For so long there’s been one conversation around Black culture in the media. I want them to be able to see the range in terms of different subject matters, topics, skills and understanding. For the kids, I want them to look in this book and see themselves reflective in it. No matter where they’re located or what their background is like or what their hair texture or their skin tone is, I want them to be able to find themselves reflected in this book. That’s why I worked hard to make sure we have a wide variety in the book. We have a girl who has albinism, we have girls who have been bullied for being too dark. I wanted everyone to see themselves represented. …It gives them the extra boost they need to understand that it’s within their realm of possibility, and they’re able to achieve those things as well.”
Reg and Kahran have continued photographing children throughout the pandemic. In fact, they’ve seen an influx in bookings of birthday shoots for children who are eager to dress up and celebrate their beauty. They are booked through the end of the year. GLORY is available for purchase here.
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