Greetings! I’ve created this site to be a discussion forum, free-form documentary project, and home for the many stories we can tell about our cultural, social, and personal experiences with hair.
As a woman, I’ve had a complex relationship with my hair, both the hair on my head and the hair on my body. As I grew up, I learned that, for women, body hair is fraught with meaning; normally, we shave it off (or pluck, or wax, or whatever we can do to get rid of it). Some of us have more of it, others less. Women can encounter criticism or questions when they choose to shave their heads, or wear close-cropped styles. Certain professions have attempted to require hairstyles of various lengths or styles. Women who lose their hair as a result of illness sometimes face the loss of their hair with sadness or shame. And some of the bearded ladies among us historically found carnival audiences mesmerized by their gender-bending, though sporting facial hair in public is still stigmatized (and often treated medically or with techniques such as laser hair removal).
I was in my teens when I demanded my mom allow me to start shaving my legs. I don’t recall why, exactly, I felt so compelled to rid myself of body hair, but I remember feeling slightly ashamed when one of my doctors commented on the dark, thick hair on my arms. I’ve often struggled with being slightly hirsute, all the while resenting the weekly, or sometimes even daily, ritual of shaving.
To get this collaborative project started, I’ve posted clips from two interviews I conducted as part of my Hair Stories documentary project. The first is a short profile of an artist named Brenna Murphy, whom I met in Chapel Hill as she was preparing to move out of state. She is a hair artist; that is, she creates prints and art installations using her own, real hair. The second interview is with Pam Spaulding, a blogger whose site, pamshouseblend.com, has garnered praise and awards for its focus on lgbt issues. She has blogged about her experiences growing up as an African-American woman during a time when she was expected to straighten her hair with hot irons. Hair as political statement is an issue that is relatively overlooked in our media, but I’d wager a guess that it’s one of the first characteristics we notice about people (and use to categorize them).
As the site evolves, I hope to elicit discussion about the cultural and social significance of our hair stories, and to generate a broad analysis of how our hair shapes our identities, including gender, ethnicity, class, or sexual orientation.
Tell me your story!
ABOUT THE “BLOGUMENTARY” ARTIST
My name is Heather Barnes, and I am a documentary art-maker living in North Carolina. This site is an extension of a documentary project I began in 2005. I started with the idea that I would interview women about their hair stories; that is, their recollections, thoughts, and experiences with hair. The stories might relate to shaving, first haircuts, having long or short hair, losing their hair, hair and ethnicity, stigma about body hair (either too much or too little), and the cultural and social significance of hair in all its manifestations. After interviewing three women with three distinct stories, I decided to create a web-based project that would solicit stories from women about their experiences with their hair, provide a discussion forum to discuss those stories, and offer a means of connection for people to talk about hair as a cultural object.
Please feel free to contact me if you’d like more information.