A woman in a Côte d’Ivoire beauty salon sports a sleek, angled bob and heavily made-up eyes like a glamorous Motown singer. We see her hairstyle from the side and the back; two negatives have been spliced together by hand to form one complete, albeit charmingly juxtaposed, image. The pattern repeats in the series, Hair, and adds up to a visually arresting and intriguing set of imagery. It is complemented by the seemingly disparate series, Leopard, featuring characters wearing all manner of leopard-print garments; from underwear to overcoats, hats to headdresses and even an all-over body tattoo.
Hair by Émilie Régnier.
Both sets of photos are saturated: with colour, cultural resonance and the depth of an old Pentax camera. They are the works of Émilie Régnier, a former conflict photojournalist who was prompted to rethink her career in 2013 following a frightening experience in northern Mali. Régnier was born in Montreal and also studied there, but spent most of her childhood in Central Africa. Turning away from war zones, she began to explore West Africa and used photography as a way to make sense of how borders shape our identities.
In 2014, Régnier began photographing women in beauty salons around Côte d’Ivoire—a longtime fashion capital of West Africa—and borrowed her splicing technique from their own tradition of stitching pictures together in order to depict a 360-degree view of their styles. Here she found many women looking to American pop stars for beauty inspiration, chiefly Beyoncé and Rihanna, and initiated a conversation about identity and the relationship between Africa and the West. Leopard evolved from this project: a rumination on leopard as a symbol of power—traditionally worn by tribal chiefs and kings in Africa, and famously as a hat by Democratic Republic of the Congo dictator Mobutu Sese Seko—and co-opted as a pattern and a fashion symbol by the West.
While most of Régnier’s photos were shot across Africa, the now Paris-based photographer, also captured images in the United States and Europe. The series is a cultural conversation in itself that speaks of a universality: highlighting the feedback loop between artists, political figures and everyday people across continents.
Hairand Leopard are shown together in an exhibition, From Mobutu to Beyoncé, at the Bronx Documentary Center until 4 June. bronxdoc.org/exhibitions
In Issue No. 1 we meet Australian fashion icon Jenny Kee, translator from Italian Ann Goldstein and French-Cuban music duo Ibeyi. We learn about Ramadan, the Aboriginal ball game Marngrook, the Kiribati dance, the art of pickling, and the importance of home. And we see what it’s like to dress up in Myanmar, live in Cuernavaca, make ceramics from different soil, and walk the streets of Florence.
In Issue No. 2 we meet Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson, and Croatian painter Stipe Nobilo. We discover how the French protect their language, why nostalgia blurs our memory, and the way women around the world have used textiles as their political voice. We learn the steps to prepare a boisterous Korean barbecue, dress up for Feria de Jerez and eat our way around Hong Kong.
In Issue No. 3 we meet Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki, Berlin-based musician Nils Frahm, and Moroccan-British artist Hassan Hajjaj. We descend to the ocean’s floor with Japan’s Ama divers, muse over the Bengali renaissance and applaud the detailing of India’s uniforms. And we try our hand at some treasured Italian recipes, visit one of Hong Kong’s homes up high, master the etiquette of the Japanese onsen and learn about the architecture of Iraq’s mudhifs.
In Issue No. 4 we meet Nigerian-born artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, Indigenous Australian Elders Uncle Bob Smith and Aunty Caroline Bradshaw, and Palestinian-American chef and artist Amanny Ahmad. We peer inside the Parisian ateliers Lesage and Lemarié, muse over the iconic lines of European chair design and celebrate the colourful woodblock prints of Japanese artist Awazu Kiyoshi. And we venture along Morocco’s Honey Highway, get lost in the markets of Oaxaca and discover the favours of Ghana.