Miisha Nash

Miisha Nash

Afro Barbershops

by Miisha Nash (United States)

Afro American Barbershops in D.C. & Afro European Barbershops in Paris: ‘The Urban Country Club: Barbershops in D.C.’, is about masculinity and sub‐culture. With this project, I want to illustrate each shop’s particular culture with portraits that interpret a moment of pampering and brotherhood, a glimpse into that sacred space. In both relation and contrast to The Urban Country Club, my photographs here in Paris are of African barbershops on and near Rue Chateau d’Eau.

Portfolio from the Visual storytelling workshop with Ed Kashi, March 2014.

Written review by ELISABETH BIONDI,
Visuals Editor and Independent Curator

Barbershops in cities like New York have given way to hair salons, more or less, fancy. I pass an old-fashioned barbershop regularly on Chamber Street and lament that many are going the way of the photo booth…going, going, gone. For this and some other reasons it is a good choice of subject.

Subject: It gives you the opportunity to cast a wide or a narrow net in terms of subject. You could concentrate on one barbershop, on barbershops in one place, a city, a country, or in many countries (which would make it very expensive). I think you have taken pictures in the U.S. and in France, i.e. two places. Two is either one too many or not enough. Either you should expand the number of places, or concentrate on only one.

Story/portfolio: Before you choose what place to do next (or stay with one on which to concentrate), please think about what it is you want to do in terms of images that round out your story line. All people in your pictures are black (African American?). Are you doing black barbershops? If so, find another that offers great picture opportunities. Think about what is it you want to say about barbershops. After you have answered this question, choose the best place(s) for it. Then ask yourself what is missing in terms of subject? Pick one that gives you the opportunity to photograph the missing elements & go back to it as long as it takes to get good pictures. In order to focus, it might be helpful to find a subtitle to ‘Barbershop’. It will help you to define your direction and guide your pursuit.

Pictures: I personally do not mind mixing color & black & white. But some do & prefer one or the other. I think your black & white are stronger than your color pictures. Perhaps you had more time for more images and subsequently made a better edit. Black & white pictures abstract & you used this very well. Color is more vibrant and demands a different way of shooting. I think you are still looking for your voice, or better your eye for it.

Your color pictures are lively which is good. But I think you need to concentrate more on careful framing and on composition. Look at the picture with teddy bear—the teddy is good to have in the image but what is the cord that runs through it? There is a mirror, which is a good opportunity for taking an interesting picture, use it purposefully. The bucket with brushes bothers me. It could have been better framed, i.e. cropped partially. Perhaps a vertical shot would have worked better than a horizontal picture?

You have a variety of pictures in varying distances, which is good. It is important to have close-up, medium, and long shots for layout. You want to give some (not too much) thought to how the pictures get displayed later. Details are important for a good layout later. Look around for what will make good series.

Variety, in general, is important. Think of themes-the hair, the barber, the tools, the place, the ambiance, inside & outside, displays. Last but not least, each place has a personality. Find it & translate it visually for use in your images.

Looking at the individual images:

#1 subject is good as tattoos make for good visuals. However, I do not like the hamming up for the camera.
#2 good, nicely framed, & good to have the kid making a funny face.
#3 nice detail but is this in a barbershop?
#4 good subject but you could have made a better picture by composing it more carefully.
#5 not sure what is going on in picture.
#6 already discussed above.
#7 like the picture but it is a bit messy, could be better if it was more tightly cropped.
#8 expressions are good but center of the picture is not very interesting.
#9 really like this picture. It is fun.
#10 I like the face in the mirror but it could have been better placed. Perhaps repeat in another place.
#11 don’t really understand what is going on, the angle does not work.
#12 love this picture.
#13 wonderful picture.
#14 good
#15 love the format, lovely portrait, don’t mind the cropped head but miss his chin.
#16 lively & fun picture. It works.
#17 think I know what you wanted to do with this picture but I don’t see it.

In conclusion, I think you have taken beautiful black & white pictures but your color needs more work. Portraits are your strength. As far as color is concerned, I think you need to take more pictures to make your color pictures matter. I am sure you will get there if you are willing to invest more time in it. Also, the story, or portfolio will benefit from your being clearer about the focus. Once you have decided on that and start explore it in a targeted way you will have a very good portfolio.

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