Albus is an ongoing collection of photographs currently being showcased at the M.I.A Gallery in Seattle. It features the work of South African photographer Justin Dingwall and South African model Thando Hopa. It is a photo series addressing the stigma surrounding albinism in Africa.
Model Thando Hopa, is a legal prosecutor who is making it a mission to use her visibility to expel negative perceptions surrounding Albinism.
The photographic series explores the aesthetics of Albinism in contrast with the idealized perception of beauty. According to Justin Dingwall, “Beauty is found in all shapes, sizes and colors. It can also be colorless, which is the point being proven and celebrated through a wave of models with albinism — a condition affecting melanin production that results in little or no pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.”
Rejected, prejudiced and discriminated individuals suffering from albinism are likely to become targets and victims of physical attacks and mutilations. The project, Albus, reflects the ability to look inside ourselves and re-invent norms of beauty. Albinism touches every ethnic group and is characterized by the insufficiency of melanin that determines skin and hair color.
Fashion model Thando Hopa says, “I’m a black girl who lives in the skin of a white person and that alone should embody what a human being as a whole should represent‘.
One thing is clear: Hopa and Dingwall know how to make a beautiful image. Even if one is unaware of the politics behind the images or puts that aspect to the side to dwell only on the aesthetic value for a moment, the images are extraordinary. Hopa is extremely photo-sensitive, and in many portraits her eyes are closed in an apparent state of sublime peace. The texture of her skin is not airbrushed to oblivion, leaving her beauty on full display as an act of vulnerability, not vanity. Dingwall shows himself to be a master of lighting, as each portrait illuminates his subject differently, drawing out a different aspect of this complex figure, veiled and unadorned.
You can also read up a full feature in Vanguard Seattle.by