In her ongoing project “Humanae”, Madrid-based Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass has set out to catalogue every conceivable human skin tone. Born in 1979 in Rio de Janeiro and having grown up in a multiracial family, she is acutely aware of how small differences in colour can swell into large misconceptions and stereotypes about race.
Angélica pairs thousands of portraits of people from different parts of the world with their alphanumeric Pantone codes. By bringing all the skin tones to the same platform, she toppels hierarchies. No ethnicity dominates another. Also, by noting subtle variations, she subverts the black/white dichotomy that tends to govern our discourse on race. The collection that emerges is stunning in its aesthetic variety and diversity, with faces going from rose pink to caramel to chocolate to ebony. No other trait of identification and classification—like nationality, gender, age, social class or religion—is mentioned.
In 2016, Angélica’s career was launched to new dimensions with her TED Global Talk, confirming the great potential of her work to go beyond photography, becoming a tool for social change. Today, this TED talk exceeds two million views. “Humanae” has traveled to more than 30 countries across six continents—from The World Economic Forum in Davos to the pages of National Geographic—to promote dialogue that challenges how we think about skin colour and ethnic identity.
Thousands of portraits have already been produced and there is no explicit intention to finish the project on a specific date. It is open in all senses and will include all those who want to be part of this colossal global mosaic. The only limit for the taxonomy would be reached by completing all of the world’s population.
The process followed in Humanae is rigorous and systematic: the background for each portrait is tinted with a colour tone identical to a sample of 11 x 11 pixels taken from the face of the person photographed.
Angélica’s work transcends the museums and finds in school classrooms a great universe of work. She amplifies the educational message of Humanae through institutional collaborations around the world, with the councils of different cities in the Basque Country, teacher training schools in Madrid, high schools in the Czech Republic, or with UNESCO and the Government of Chile, reaching more than 50 thousand students in a week.
She is also a powerful and inspiring speaker who has lectured at important organisations, such as the University of Salamanca, the University of Bologna, or the UERJ – Rio de Janeiro; as well as the International Congress of Fundraising – The Resource Alliance, at National Geographic and at the World Economic Forum, as a cultural leader. Angélica has founded the Humanae Institute, a non-profit educational platform with the objective of positioning diversity as a value in the educational process.
Links: Websites (www.angelicadass.com, www.humanae.org) | Facebook (www.facebook.com/humanae.project) | Twitter (@angelicadass) | Instagram (instagram.com/humanae_project, www.instagram.com/angelicadass) | Tumblr (humanae.tumblr.com)
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