Embracing what is natural: Photographer captures the beauty of natural hair

In December of 2019, freelance photographer Faith Laurent made a decision that would bring new meaning to her journey of self-acceptance: she put down the flat iron and began to embrace her natural hair.

This decision for Laurent, a junior business major, not only gave her a new perspective on beauty but also a new source of inspiration for her recent photo series: “Floraison: The Upcoming of Elmonia.”

Laurent selected the title thoughtfully to honor where she is going and where she came from.

“I’m so dedicated with the effort and time I put into investing in myself, so that is where I got the ‘upcoming.’ My middle name is Elmonia, and I was named after my great grandmother who was French. ‘Floraison’ is ‘bloom’ in French,” Laurent said.

The term ‘Floraison’ pays tribute to the flowers featured in Laurent’s photo series. When it comes to beauty and vulnerability, Laurent said flowers and natural hair have a lot in common.

“I incorporated the flowers because they still are beautiful even while dead, imperfect or discolored. Similar to hair. The two hairstyles that I shot with are important to me because I wear them frequently,” she wrote in a description of her work.

For Lauret, placing her hair on an artistic pedestal has allowed her to take another step in her journey of embracing natural beauty.

“All my life, I went to school feeling like I had to straighten my hair to look good. Straighteners, flat irons, all of that. When I got to high school, I dyed my hair and by then, it was just dead. When I got to Southeastern, I said ‘you know what, I’m done.’ I was blonde, so I went back to brown and decided I had to stop,” Laurent said.

Laurent’s love for her natural tresses continued to grow alongside her love for photography, and by combining the two, her art has begun to receive recognition.

Out of 1,170 submissions, “Floraison: The Upcoming of Elmonia,” is within the 51 works that was selected and displayed in Louisiana Contemporary 2021, an annual exhibition hosted by the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.

Laurent was inspired to submit her work to the exhibition through the support of her photography professor.

She said, “I want to shout out Mrs. Lily Brooks because even after school ended, she sent me a link to Louisiana Contemporary. She said “I really think you should do this,” and then I did, and I got in. She was really proud.”

This was Laurent’s first-ever submission and acceptance into a contemporary art exhibition, and she knew she wanted to make a statement.

“While shooting, I was reminded about how natural hair is not always accepted in the workplace. Knowing that natural hair is viewed as unprofessional to close-minded people is what drove me to make my prints large. I made them large to show off their beauty. The dimensions of each print in the exhibition will be 16×20,” Laurent said.

As a photographer, Laurent also aspires to leave an impact on her digital platforms. According to Laurent, being authentic is one of the most powerful decisions you can make when sharing your art and posting online.

“Social media is known for giving people false expectations. You have all these influencers and women’s bodies looking ‘perfect,’ and I’ve had enough of all of that. This is my way to emphasize that you should just be yourself.”

Laurent added she is always looking for new people to work with. The locally-based photographer can be reached via Instagram @faithlaurentphotography and via her website elmoniabeauty.com. 

“Floraison: The Upcoming of Elmonia” will be on display at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art until October 10th.