This photographer is documenting human skin colors throughout the world.
Despite the denial that racism still exists today in many countries, racial tension can be felt the world over between people that are all colors, though of course the most historical is that of black and white people. As photographer Angélica Dass points out in her TED Talk in 2016, “It has been 128 since the last country in the world abolished slavery…. But we still live in a world where the color of our skin not only gives a first impression, but a lasting one that remains.”
Dass grew up in Brazil, where discrimination is still alive and well, but her multiracial family helped her to look past race and into the hearts of people. Dass explains that growing up black was confusing and that the outside world soon taught her that color had many meanings, but few of them benefited her skin tone. As an adult, Dass married a white (she describes his skin tone as that of a “lobster when sunburnt”) Spanish man and was hit with questions about what color their children would turn out to be. These comments, combined with her ongoing struggle in dealing with race, inspired her to take photos of people with different skin colors to show the endless varieties of tones humans can be.
“It’s a work in progress, from a personal story to a global history,” Dass said of the project, which is titled Humanae.
This photographer has since embarked on an international mission to take photos of volunteers from all across the human skin color spectrum, which she matches to Pantone® colors. Her standard procedure involves photographing the people she meets with a white background, then zooming in to an 11×11 pixel from their nose and using the color matching with Pantone® to identify what color their backdrop should be. Though most state that it’s her goal to photograph every possible skin color, Dass admits that she has no intent to ever truly finish it. As stated on the introductory page for the project,
“[The project] is open in all senses and it will include all those who want to be part of this colossal global mosaic. The only limit would be reached by completing all the world’s population.”
Rather than placing the project in any specific order, such as from dark to light colors, Dass arranges them as a mosaic, shuffling them around to both contrast the different tones and dilute the false preeminence that some races are superior to others and shattering the belief that only a few skin tones exist in the world.
All of the people in the portraits are volunteers, whether they contacted Dass through Facebook or Tumblr or Dass approached them at a gallery showing or on the streets, and the subjects are from dozens of cities around the world. There is no classification based on nationality, race, gender, sexuality, age, social class, or religion, and yet the chaotic nature of the subjects and colors provides a soothing, monochromatic look at the colors that so darkly define our world history. Dass herself has stated that the project has brought her a sense of peace with skin color that she hadn’t felt before, saying in her TED Talk,
“Every time I take a picture, I feel that I am sitting in front of a therapist. All the frustration, fear, and loneliness that I once felt… Becomes love.”