As a child, Joana Linda considered her hair to be a symbol of beauty, something to be cherished. In adolescence, its removal became a symbol of empowerment, a rejection of these traditional beauty connotations. Her project ‘the problem with this song’ includes an image of her shorn hair, discarded in a sink, as well as a preserved lock of hair stowed in a ziplock bag. We spoke to her about the symbolism of hair in this series.
What draws you to hair as a subject matter? Growing up, my hair was always the subject of attention and compliments. In my head, it became a symbol of beauty. Then in my teens I decided to shave it – which shocked everyone around me, I think they couldn’t understand why someone would purposefully not want to look pretty, but I wanted to look the way I felt. Beauty was not a priority, and had nothing to do with the way I saw myself.
I took some photos of the hair in the sink, and they ended up being part of a series about the symbology of the bride, all dressed in white, like a lamb going to the slaughter. I got lots of e-mails from girls who really connected to that series. I think we all, men and women, struggle with this dichotomy between inner and outer beauty, how others perceive who you are by the way you look. For me, hair was always at the centre of that.
What does hair represent in ‘the problem with this song’? Change. A desire that a visual change will somehow instigate an emotional one. If the person you see in the mirror does not look like yourself any more, are you allowed to have the same feelings? Do you carry the same grief, or are you given a chance to start again? Of course, it doesn’t work that way, we all know that. A makeover can only bring about temporary happiness, but it can be a start. It means, at least, that you’re trying. There is a feeling of empowerment when you cut your own hair, as if you are taking control of your life.
What is your favourite image from the series? The lock of hair in the plastic bag. I’m fascinated by Victorian hair lockets, they’re so delicate and mysterious. I find the idea of keeping a lock of someone’s hair, like a holy relic, very beautiful and romantic.
“I think we all struggle with this dichotomy between inner and outer beauty, how others perceive who you are by the way you look”
Interview Emma de Clercq Images Joana Linda Website