While there may not be one answer to this question, the work of Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass explores meaning behind race and color.
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By Ellen McGirt
Updated: July 24, 2018 4:24 PM ET

I’m dashing between presentations today, rich conversations about race, leadership, and progress during uncertain times. I’ll have more on that soon, but the themes have centered on the age-old question. Why is it so hard to talk about race?

While I work on a longer answer, I’ll point you to a better question.

This beautiful short video is from Angélica Dass, a photographer who has examined the meaning of skin color and race in an extensive exercise called Humanæ, a portrait project that has captured some 3,000 people in thirteen different countries, from executives to refugees, people of every gender expression and physical ability.

Thinking about skin tone comes naturally to her, she says. Growing up in Brazil, the last country to abolish slavery, meant that she was initially free to celebrate the skin hues around her, only to later understand their fraught meaning.

I was born in a family full of colors. My father is the son of a maid from whom he inherited an intense dark chocolate tone. He was adopted by those who I know as my grandparents. The matriarch, my grandma, has a porcelain skin and cotton-like hair. My grandpa was somewhere between a vanilla and strawberry yogurt tone, like my uncle and my cousin. My mother is a cinnamon-skin daughter of a native Brazilian, with a pinch of hazel and honey, and a man [who is] a mix of coffee with milk,but with a lot of coffee. She has two sisters. One in a toasted-peanut skin and the other, also adopted, more on the beige side, like a pancake.

Growing up in this family, color was never important for me. Outside home, however, things were different soon. Color had many other meanings.

As an artist, she has found salvation in the meanings. Dass has displayed the collective portrait project around the world and has created a small but persistent conversation about what it means to be a true human color, not the “untrue” white, red, black or yellow associated with race. “This personal exercise turned out to be a discovery,” she says. “Suddenly I realized that Humanae was useful for many people. It represents a sort of mirror for those who cannot find themselves reflected in any label.”

Enjoy.

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