Atlanta duo goes viral with photos of black girls with natural hair


The kinks. The waves. The twists. The blooming afro.

Atlanta photography duo Kahran and Regis Bethencourt want to celebrate the versatility and beauty of natural hair.

A year ago, the owners of CreativeSoul Photography launched the “AfroArt” series, which features African-American girls in all their natural hair glory.

“We really feel that it’s important for our girls with natural hair to see themselves positively represented in the media,” said Kahran, a native of Greenville, S.C. “I definitely think when we started, there were not a lot of kids with natural hair. It’s been a struggle to get brands to buy into it.”

Although the series was shot a year ago, it recently went viral, thanks in part to social media shoutouts from celebrities like Taraji P. Henson, Morris Chestnut and Tia Mowry.

The collection is powerful in its entirety.

The collection includes 25 photos shot around the nation with various themes.

There was steampunk in New York. The Baroque period in Dallas. Bejeweled and crowned queens in Los Angeles and AfroEarth in Oakland, where natural elements were used to adorn the models’ hair. The girls range in age from 4 to 13.

“It was cool to showcase those eras in a new light,” she said. “This was not something people had seen before.”

The Bethencourts have released a calendar featuring some of the photographs (Henson recently bought 10) and are in talks with a publisher about a coffee-table book to be released perhaps in 2018. They also sell some of the photographs as prints or on canvas, ranging from $40 to $300.

When the husband-and-wife team first sent out calls for young models, parents would sometimes get their children’s hair straightened for the session, “because that’s what they thought they needed to get into the industry — to be a top model or actor.”

One of the girls pictured in the series is Phoenix Lyles, 10, a fifth-grader at King Springs Elementary School in Smyrna, who has worn natural hair since she was even younger.

Related:

» Best protective plans for natural hair

» Girl won’t be expelled over natural hair

» Gifts for black women with natural hair

» Beyoncé’s mane man talks famous client

The attention doesn’t faze her. “I feel pretty good with natural hair,” she said.

It’s more acceptable in many circles. Commercials, print ads and films and television shows often feature children and teens with locs, Afros, twists and the like.

Rita Harrell, co-owner of Big Picture Casting in Atlanta, which has worked with clients like Nike and Wal-Mart and on projects like “Hangman” and “Vengeance: A Love Story,” said it’s much more commercially acceptable, “even desired” than it used to be.

She thinks it’s the general trend toward multiculturalism in advertising. “They want to make sure all types and all walks of life are represented.”

They often hear from parents who said they showed their daughters the photos “so they can love their natural hair. They go to school and they want to cover it up.”

The two enjoyed a bicoastal romance before marrying in 2011. Kahran, 37, lived in Oregon and Regis, 40, lived in his native Maryland. They met during an online graphics design forum. They decided to move to Atlanta, when Regis enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College to study photography.

His wife, who nurtured a love for photography, would learn along with him.

In 2009, they started a photography business. It was satisfying, but something was missing.

They slowly backed away from the part of the business they didn’t enjoy as much, such as shooting weddings and newborns.

“It did not make us as happy as when shooting kids,” she said. “They (children and youths) can be interesting. They like being in front of the camera, and they’re usually full of personality. A little bribe with Skittles and they’re good.”

Adults, on the other hand, were found to be more stressful, said Regis.

“I’m a child myself,” he said. “Adults are too worried about how people see them or things like their weight.”

The goal, said Regis, is to take the project global.

He said they’ve gotten requests from the United Kingdom and various nations in Africa. How are they dealing with their newfound fame?

“It’s weird to go to another country and people recognize you on the street,” he said. “I don’t think that’s normal for photographers.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

‘12 Strong’ infuses heart into war
‘12 Strong’ infuses heart into war

If you’re doing your job right in the U.S. Special Forces, it likely means no one will ever know. It’s a tough, elite and highly classified position, where acts of incredible heroism never get the ticker tape parade, and that’s kind of the point. These soldiers are supposed to slip into and out of secret missions without making the...
‘Forever My Girl’ doesn’t stray from Southern romance formula
‘Forever My Girl’ doesn’t stray from Southern romance formula

Romance novelist and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks cornered the market on a subgenre he essentially invented — exceedingly pleasant, Southern-set epic romances (between young, attractive, white, Christian, heterosexual couples). But this is a genre that overwhelmingly appeals to a female movie-going audience, so it’s about time female creators...
‘The Final Year’ of the Obama administration hard to watch
‘The Final Year’ of the Obama administration hard to watch

Maybe you think you had the worst 2016 election night party in America — you know, the one that ended early. But no, that distinction belongs to then-U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, as evidenced in the new documentary “The Final Year,” about foreign policy during President Obama’s last year in office. Power decided that it would...
‘Den of Thieves’ kicks off bad-movie season in style
‘Den of Thieves’ kicks off bad-movie season in style

So this is how it works: In the fall, movies are intended to be good and usually are. In the summer, movies are intended to be bad but profitable, and they’re usually both. But in January and February, we get the special season. That’s when the movies are intended to be great but are horrible. But not normal horrible. We’re talking...
‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ shares last-gasp romance
‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ shares last-gasp romance

In light of a résumé skewed toward male-dominated thrillers, Scottish director Paul McGuigan might seem an unlikely choice to guide a fading-siren weepie from page to screen. Yet “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” a real-life romance adapted from the 1986 memoir by Peter Turner, reveals an unexpected fontanel of sentiment...
More Stories