Angélica Dass is a Brazilian artist who explores how skin colour is far more than black and white. Dass was born into a family with a diverse range of skin colour due to her grandparents choice to adopt children. Within her home this diversity did not matter, however she discovered in school that skin colour had many other meanings.
Dass believes that skin colour not only gives a first impression but also a lasting impression that stays with someone. Throughout her project Humanae she explores the true origin of our skin colours by focusing on red, black, yellow and white – as these four colours are what make up a skin tone.
Angélica Dass creates her images by firstly taking a portrait in front of a white background and then takes a 11×11 pixels from their nose and use this colour as the new background. She started this project by using her family and friends but them moved on to used more and more volunteers who had found out about her project through social media. Dass chose use social media as it connects everyone and therefore everyone is invited explore the concept.
Dass has portrayed more than 3000 people in 13 different countries and in 19 different cities around the world. She has captured both men and women, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, those with power and authority and those with none, all kinds of believes and religions, different sexual identities, those with physical impairments, etc. Because of this her portraits make us rethink how we see each other and questions the concept of race and what it means to us. Humanae creates a mirror in which people can find themselves when they may have felt they couldn’t before.
The project was widely received and Dass was invited to share her work in galleries and exhibitions. Her work was also shared in magazines, blogs and papers. A major achievement was having Humanae feature as the front cover of ‘Foreign Affaires’ – one of the most relevant political publications. Her favourite way in which her were was displayed was in direct public eye – some of her work was put up in walkways and on the sides of buildings. By her work appearing in the street it forced a popular debate but also creates a feeling of community.
Dass started to use teachers to share her work in school educating children (at the age she first realised that her skin colour made her different) that everyones skin colour is different and thats okay. Dass also started to teach art lessons to people of all ages, within these the participants would paint a self portrait trying to discover their own unique colour.
Angélica Dass discovered that as a photographer she is a channel for others to communicate. As an individual she realised that every time she takes a picture she slightly overcomes the fear, loneliness and confusion that she once felt. By studying Dass’ work I have learnt how much of an impact photography can have on the world and how we can truly express our feeling through arts. Not only this but we can also self heal through the same process.
The project created a very personal impact on many individuals lives. The overwhelming power that this work has created not only a feeling of community but also a feeling of pride and expectance within individuals. However, Dass believes we still need to work hard to remove discrimination that is used as common practice today.
Side note: In my project ‘The Square Mile’ am too am looking at expressing individuality and identity through photography. I am using colour to do this, however in a slightly different context. Whilst not focusing in on skin colour, I am instead looking at how colour can be used to symbolise individual personalities.