The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Kahran and Regis Bethencourt

NPR Story by Destinee Adams

A husband and wife reimagine fairy tales with Black children in mind

This is Goldilocks like you’ve never seen her.

Bathed in a golden light, she looks out from a photo resembling a fashion magazine spread with a commanding stare, surrounded by massive teddy bears. Instead of yellow curly hair, she wears thick, afro-textured, honey blonde locks.

This is the Goldilocks of CROWNED: Magical Folk and Fairy Tales from the Diaspora by husband and wife photographers Kahran and Regis Bethencourt. The two have reimagined familiar stories with photographs of Black children and, occasionally, new plot points, in an elaborate book of 141 photos.

It’s the sequel to 2021’s GLORY: Magical Visions of Black Beauty.

This is Goldilocks like you’ve never seen her.

The book is broken down into three categories: Classic fairy tales, African and African American Folktales and original stories. The couple intentionally casts Black children of different ages, skin tones and hair textures in traditionally white roles, like Cinderella.

In the retelling of Cinderella, “Asha the Little Cinder Girl,” Asha wears an extravagant blue gown with purple tulle shooting from the bottom as Jamal, her Prince Charming, slides on a white high-top sneaker instead of a glass slipper.

Perhaps the most striking element in the picture is Asha’s hair, a structure of carefully placed black braids and white pearls piled high on top of her head.

“I think it’s important for, specifically, Black and brown kids to be able to see themselves reflected in the stories that they read growing up,” Kahran said.

The Bethencourts began their photography careers in Atlanta in 2009. For a while, they worked in the children’s fashion industry, capturing headshots for adolescent actors and shooting campaigns for kids’ brands. But they noticed a specific and unsettling pattern among Black children in the industry.

“We realized that a lot of the kids that had natural Afro hair would come in to get their headshots and the parents would have their hair straightened because they thought that’s what they needed to do to get their kids into the industry,” Kahran said.

“We thought, ‘Gosh, wow! At an early age we’re teaching our kids that they’re not acceptable, that their looks are not good enough.'”

The two began doing personal projects where Black children were encouraged to wear their natural hair in fashionable settings. Staying connected to the industry helped them build enough clientele to create their own photography company, CreativeSoul.

CROWNED is a visual representation of the CreativeSoul original mission: celebrate and embrace natural Black beauty. But the book also showcases Regis and Kahran’s ability to imagine and translate new worlds.

“Goldi: The Girl with the Golden Locks” was the favorite story for Regis to retell because the original story “didn’t really have a lesson at the end.”

“It pretty much was a story about a privileged girl going in and just eating everything and just leaving and going back home,” he said. “No lesson learned.”

In CROWNED, Goldi is still a privileged girl, but she is welcomed into the bears’ home. The bears don’t have much, but they have each other and a once-haughty Goldi leaves the house with three new friends and an appreciation for nurturing her relationships.

Changing the ending “was so cool for me because I feel like we’re actually changing history,” Regis said.

The book was released May 23, three days before the live action film The Little Mermaid premiered with Halle Bailey, a Black woman with natural locks, as Ariel, a princess and the main character.

Like the live-action adaption of The Little Mermaid, the Bethencourts’ version is setting the standard for Black representation in traditionally white spaces.

The husband and wife duo dress Aliyah, the little mermaid, in silver jewels and colorful pearls from head-to-toe. As she floats under the sea, she plays in her big red flowing hair filled with loose braids, shells, leaves and bright red tulle.

Aliyah holds her head high in every shot like the most confident, royal figures. She stares off into the distance and also directly at the camera, as if to say this story was always her own.

Lisa Lambert edited this digital story.

To see more of this project, click here

To purchase Crowned

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world.  She has been involved in the photography and illustration advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

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