Colour has been a discriminatory factor in Angélica Dass’ life. She comes from a vibrantly multi-racial family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but grew up learning that outside her home, “with this skin colour and this hair, I cannot belong to some places”.
She explains in a TED Talk given earlier this year that, “when I took my cousin to school, I was usually mistaken for the nanny, by helping in the kitchen at a friend’s party, people thought I was the maid."
"I was even treated like a prostitute just because I was walking along the beach with European friends, and many times visiting my grandma or friends in upper class buildings, I was invited not to use the main elevator.”
This experience has shaped Angélica's professional work as a photographer and inspired her ongoing body of work Humanae.
Recognising that every person has a unique skin tone, the project aspires to “highlight our true colours rather than the white, red, black or yellow associated with race.”
It's a sort of game, she says, that is designed to question the colour boxes society puts us into.
Angélica started by photographing herself, family and friends and captures their head and shoulders against a white background. She then uses pigments from the skin on their noses to colour the space behind them and matches that shade to the industrial colour palate "pantone" to give each person a unique skin tone identity.
Having since grown to feature thousands of people from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, Angélica's work has resonated with audiences around the world. Galleries in Milan, Seoul, Chennai, Pennsylvania, Lausanne, Valencia and Bergen among others, have featured the photo series, and it has also been displayed in a number of outdoor exhibitions.
While over five decades have past since Martin Luther King stood up to give his “I have a dream” speech, Angélica's experience has taught her that unfortunately, the colour of someone's skin can still play a discriminatory role.
She reflects that “we still have to work hard to abolish discrimination, that remains a common practice worldwide and will not disappear by itself.”
Angélica's work can be seen on her website Humanae work in progress.