On Friday 29th May 2015 the graduation show opened at West Wharf Gallery in Cardiff. Is was big pleasure presenting my most recent project Unfading there alongside some fabulous work by my course mates. Three years of studying on the BA (Hons) Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales Newport are now coming to an end. It has been a fabulous time!
Unfading shows women affected by alopecia, a hair loss disease which is thought to be related to the immune system but the exact cause of which is unknown, as is any promising cure. Affecting 1,7% of the UK’s population and causing complete or partial hair loss, alopecia is not a life-threatening condition but for most people means a severe psychological shock and threat to their sense of identity. Losing one’s hair often seems to be losing one’s identity. Identity however does not disappear but transforms itself and changes its dress. Accepting hair loss often means going through a phase similar to a grieving process that can be very different from individual to individual.
Gwennan Thomas, one of the participants of the project and advocate of the charity Alopecia UK in Wales says that ‘hairstyles, as well as eyebrows and eyelashes, which can be taken for granted, frame one’s facial features. Loosing them can make a women feel vulnerable, naked and often less feminine and powerless against contending with the latest hairstyle trends or fashion statements. However for many, an inner strength is revealed which is both astounding and beautiful.’
The way the photographs were made aims at supporting and empowering the participants in their individuality. The backdrop reflects a colour which has been chosen for each individual to enhance their characteristic appeal. Participants could, if they wanted, have their makeup done by a makeup artist and the images were considered immediately by both photographer and photographed to be discussed and developed further in cooperation.
Most women when loosing their hair choose to wear a wig. The women in the photographs have taken off their wig, a few already years ago when they decided not to disguise their hair loss anymore, some for the first time in front of the camera.
At the exhibition both the portraits of Gwennan and Sally were displayed as well as the book dummy containing the whole project (which will be described in a separate post). Images were printed on Kodak Endura in 76cm x 114cm and then mounted on Foamex.