Angélica Dass has been around cameras since birth. (Her father, an amateur photographer, captured a series of shots of her delivery in an operating room in Rio de Janeiro.) From 2009 to 2011, she worked as a photographer for a variety of magazines, including Glamour, GQ, ¡Hola!, and Marie Claire. Bored of commercial work, she returned to school in 2011, earning a master’s in photography from EFTI in Madrid. For her capstone project, an ongoing photo series titled Humanae, she juxtaposed portraits of individual subjects with a backdrop of the Pantone color matching their skin tone. So far, she has photographed 2,500 people in 11 cities spanning five continents. The project was adapted for the cover image of the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs. Dass spoke to Foreign Affairs assistant editor Nikita Lalwani in February.
You've described Humanae as a project born of your own experience. What inspired the work?
My inspiration is my family. My father is a black man adopted by a white family. My mother has an adopted white sister. I'm married to a Spanish man with Belgian heritage, and people always ask me what color my kids will be when I have kids.
I started taking portraits of my family to break away from the colors we learn to associate with people: red, yellow, black, white. These are not our true colors. There is no black, no yellow, no white in my work. These colors make us see each other as different, even though we are equal.
What should we, as viewers, take away from the portraits? Do you have a specific goal in mind for the project?
I want viewers to reflect on equality, and not just the equality of color. Sometimes mothers write to me saying, "I showed your work to my kids, and I'm impressed to hear their thoughts about color, gender, age.” That’s what I want. Through my portraits, I want people to think about humanity.
Humanae is an ongoing project. I know that
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