Race is a complex subject, and an increasing number of artists are treating human hues like paint swatches to explore the depth that exists beyond black and white. Humanae is a portrait series by photographer and designer Angelica Dass that applies the Pantone Matching System to people’s skin.
Dass was inspired by the complexity that stemmed from within her own family tree. “I am the granddaughter of a ‘black’ immigrant from Cabo Verde and a ‘native’ Brazilian, and the daughter of a ‘black’ father adopted by a ‘white’ family,” she tells Co.Design. Reducing diverse heritages to these most basic tones does it a disservice; she wanted to reveal, then examine, our “true colors.”
Even on an individual it can be near impossible to find consistency, so Dass always chose a hue from an “average area” at the nose, even if that “average area” was, say, sunburnt. “The range of contrasts make it clear that even our environment interferes with our color–it’s something that can change during the seasons, or vary on different areas of our body,” she says. In this way, despite the highly specialized classification she ascribes, each person could have an infinite number of tones based on the smallest patch of exposed skin. In order to maintain the integrity of the project, the only alteration each image received was an added background of the corresponding Pantone shade–so, no Photoshop and no retouching.
Dass has, somewhat ironically, received some feedback questioning the lack of diversity in her subjects. Everyone featured was found and photographed at two Spanish arts festivals–the Rojo Nova in Barcelona and De las Artes in Madrid–resulting in a somewhat limited selection. Ultimately, she’d like to document folks around the world; Humanae is a work in progress.