As photographers, we all know a photo is not simply a photo. It’s a story, a memory, a provocation. The same goes for hair.
Hair is linked to self-expression and identity, culture and our communities. It’s incredibly personal. “In some societies hair can represent spiritual connections, whilst different styles can indicate specific rites of passage,” writes Kyle Ring, curator of the popular Instagram account @in.hair.itance.
I recently connected with Daniella Almona, a multidisciplinary artist from Lagos, Nigeria, and learned of her ongoing project “Crown.” “Hair has always been a part of my identity as a black woman. These tight and coarse curls have become a crown I carry on my head. As a black artist, I strive to highlight parts of my identity that the world often criticizes. This project titled ‘Crown’ is an ongoing series of portraits that visually explores and appreciates black hair,” she told me.
The part of the series featured below focuses specifically on dreadlocks, also known as locs, and the multiple forms they come in based on who is carrying them. “The series is shot digitally and on 120 black and white film. I started the ideation process and moodboarding in December  and started photographing last month. My goal at the end of this project is to accurately represent the beauty and diversity of black hair. The next part of the series will explore loose curls of different types,” she says.
In addition to the photo essay featured below, I also spoke with Daniella to learn more about her background in photography, her goals for the project and her biggest achievement of the last year. A short interview is included at the end of her essay.
Cover images by Daniella Almona.
PhotoShelter: How did you get your start in photography?
Daniella Almona: I am a multidisciplinary artist from Lagos, Nigeria. Having lived between Nigeria, South Africa, and the United States, I spent the past few years capturing vibrant portraits and fashion stills across various cultures and backgrounds. As a black woman, my work highlights and explores blackness in all forms. I am passionate about the intersection between poetry and pixels, and the pursuit of a narrative. I work primarily in film and digital photography.
I picked up my first camera in 2017 after high school. I was doing my A-Levels at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa and I was exploring different forms of artistic media. I had always been a writer and I was experimenting with collage and painting but a friend of mine had a camera which I borrowed for the weekend. That was the turning point for me. I made my mum buy me a camera for my birthday the month after and I have been visually telling stories ever since.
What’s been your biggest achievement of the last year?
Being a part of the Black Women Photographers collective has been my biggest achievement because it kickstarted a lot of the opportunities and spaces I found myself in. From working with VSCO, being featured by CaptureOne and exhibiting my work internationally for the first time in my life, I was constantly reminded and affirmed about the path I chose to take. I graduate college in a few weeks and those achievements have given me more hope for my future.
What advice would you have for someone putting together their own photo essay right now?
The most important advice I would give is to simply start. In one of my photo classes, my professor made us free-write a long ‘artist statement.’ No thoughts, no filter, no punctuation checks, just write. Most times we know what stories we want to tell but worry about the structure or how perfect our sentences are, but once you take all that pressure away and let the ideas and content flow, the rest can be figured out later. I also believe in creating mood boards that include the colors you are thinking about, the lighting styles and some keywords that you can look back on and be reminded of the core of your story. Lastly, study other essays and projects that have a similar theme to yours for inspiration.
To learn more about Daniella and see more of “Crown,” follow her on Instagram @daniellaalmona and @danusesfilm, and visit her website. We also encourage you to learn about Black Women Photographers, a global community of over 1,000 photographers that works to disprove the myth that it’s difficult to discover and commission Black creatives.