A Black Photographer Captures The Tradition Of ‘Wash Day’ In New Photobook

Photographer Tomesha Faxio showcases the beauty of wash day, a routine of haircare for Black people, in her new photobook.

Wash day is not the same for every Black person, but self-care is present in each ritual. Photographer Tomesha Faxio displays the tradition of Black haircare, whether it’s curls, coils, or locs, in her new photobook.

Despite varying salon waits, or straining one’s neck to reach the kitchen sink, wash day is essential to Black people. The maintenance can involve many steps, like steam treatments and hair masks, but cleansing and conditioning are at the core.

The timeframe can also range as well, with many textures requiring more time to detangle or lock in moisture. However one configures their method, the act is one of renewal to ensure its health. To celebrate this cultural act, Faxio captured the routine and stories of 26 Black families for “Wash Day.” The photographer explained to CNN her unique intentions with showing Black people in everyday hairstyles.

“I think that there’s been beautiful work done on our hair portraiture and work that’s been done with the hair styled in all these beautiful, intricate ways,” she detailed. “But I hadn’t, at that time, seen a ton of work where the hair was just as is, and that’s what I wanted to capture.”

As a movement toward natural hair became popular in recent years, so has the criminalization of it. Hair discrimination emerged as a legal debate, despite the Crown Act passed in many states. However, “Wash Day” is a celebration and call to action for Black people to be proud and protective of their natural tresses.

“So many of us have learned to accept ourselves more fully, and, in turn, are able to teach our children to do the same. We are now more informed about why we grew up thinking our hair was ugly… we can see that these views are steeped in racism,” wrote Faxio in the introduction of her photobook. “While our children will likely continue to contend with non-inclusive beauty standards, we are putting them in a better position to understand and eradicate them.”

Wash Day is still a plight beyond these worldly implications. Parents labor to ensure their children’s hair is healthy. The youth take in the experience for their own adulthood. For Faxio, the preparation for “Wash Day” only deepened her love for it, and hopes this feeling resonates with readers.

“It’s work. But spending time with these moms and thinking about how we are able to pass on love of our hair — an inheritance of pride and joy in our hair, to our kids,” shared Faxio. “It just renewed my love for the process.”

Released on April 2, “Wash Day: Passing on the Legacy, Rituals, and Love of Natural Hair” is available now.

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