Atlanta-based duo Regis and Kahran Bethencourt are combating Eurocentric beauty constructs with beautifully melaninated portraits through their business CreativeSoul Photography — and it has the power to change the lives of young Afro-Latinas.

Babies of color are bombarded with vanilla images that fail to represent the brown bodies they are growing into. Without this representation, young people are more likely to see themselves as outcasts, many times leading them to self-hate and dangerous practices in order to conform. That’s why the partners, in life and business, intentionally aim their cameras at Black children.

But it’s not enough to create media for kids of color that fills the void of Black imagery. For them, this art should also inspire children of color to love and celebrate their blackness.

While the natural hair movement has helped bring in some progress in recent years, children of color still too often feel as though they need to assemble their coils to resemble the likeness of European textures. But the effort to “normalize” hair should consist of children’s affirmations, not altering what is entirely pure.

In the couple’s viral AfroArt Series, afros are adorned with jewels, roses, crowns and intricate braids, which are imaginatively shot for editorial spreads, children’s fashion and lifestyle campaigns for natural hair girls. From Baroque era snaps and Aztec textile garments to futuristic glam featuring asymmetrical locks and dashikis — the Bethencourts showcase the power of youth accepting themselves as they are.

“Our mission is to empower girls of color around the world,” the husband-and-wife storytellers told Fierce.

We caught up with the Bethencourts to discuss their photography, their forthcoming project specifically for Afro-Latinas and teaching self-love early on. Become better acquainted with the visionaries below.

1. Together you aim to make children around the world recognize and love their beauty. What was the shoot that inspired this mission?

(Photo Credit: CreativeSoul Photography)

That is correct! So, [with] the recent AfroArt Series we just wanted to do something to showcase the beauty and versatility of afro hair. We started this series about a year and a half ago to highlight how beautiful afro hair can be. We did these in a variety of cities. We did some in LA, New York, Dallas and Atlanta. For each location, we had a different theme. We had a Baroque series and some that were a little more futuristic.

In terms of us starting to focus on natural hair, it began a bit before then. I think a lot of people found out about us through our AfroArt Series, which is recent. But we actually started focusing on kids with natural hair in 2014. We got into the kid’s fashion industry and noticed there was a lack of diversity. Also, there were parents that [initially] sent in kids who had afro hair. And then they would come to the shoot and have [their children’s hair] straightened because they felt like that is what they needed to do to get into the industry. So we decided to do a personal shoot on our own. We took three little girls with natural hair and photographed them in Times Square — from there our photos just started to take off. We wanted to normalize [natural hair], so it is not something that is so different.

2. You’ve photographed in nine countries, including, Cuba, Ghana and Italy. What do you find to be the universality among these children throughout these shoots?

What we have learned within a lot of the places is that universally there is a bit of a stigma around kids, or people of color in general, [about] being able to go out with there own natural hair. We think that a lot of times kids don’t feel comfortable with it, they do not want and don’t feel empowered with trying different styles. You know? They think that it is not seen as beautiful. We believe that with us just being able to show the series and show their faces, people have reacted well to it. There has been a bit of fire to try different styles with it. It gets them inspired and wanting their curls.

3. The visuals of the Cuban sisters in front of the vintage car are stunning. Can you describe Havana’s ambiance? What was the most significant cultural takeaway from your time there?

(Photo Credit: CreativeSoul Photography)

We had a great time in Cuba. That was our first visit. One of the things about the trip is obviously we were able to find things in advance, just on social media. There are a lot of things that we thought would be difficult in Cuba because not a lot of people have access to the Internet there. And so we just really had to go on the streets and ask people or talk to people about the project that we were doing.

Those particular sisters we found through a vendor of an artist market. We spoke to her about the project. She had a few people that she knew might be interested and brought us to the mother of the twins. They are really gorgeous. The twins usually have their hair pulled back and never really wear it out. We along with the help of their mother just turned them into ‘fros at the artist market. Then we went out to Havana. There were so many different cool places around that you can shoot. All the vintage cars and buildings were so [elaborate]. Much of the textures on the walls were what we wanted. The whole place was just a photographers’ dream. So everywhere we went we were able to find beautiful locations.

4. Who conceptualizes the props and styling for your visual storytelling?

That is usually me, [Kahran]. If I have an idea regarding the theme or concept, I will work to collaborate with other vendors. For this particular shoot [in Cuba], I collaborated with an ancestral Dominican designer. I pulled a few of her pieces for that trip, and those were the pieces the twins wore.

5. Your art has gone viral numerous times. The photographs of the Latina child with vitiligo were groundbreaking. Why is it essential to breakdown Eurocentric beauty constructs for young women?

(Photo Credit: CreativeSoul Photography)

Thank you. It is definitely essential. We have been told that our skin color or our hair texture is not good enough at an early age. This is why we like to focus on kids. So many times there is a stigma on how we look. That carries on into your adulthood if you are not taught that bit of self-love in the beginning. We try to use our photography to empower kids globally to express themselves the way that they are.

6. CreativeSoul Photography’s keen attention to details and the crowning of young women of color have empowered globally. What can admirers anticipate from your forthcoming Afro-Latina project?

Yeah! We are very excited about this project. In the past, we primarily focused on African Americans. But we have not really focused on Afro-Latinas. So we are excited to travel this year. We are going to visit Spanish-speaking countries and [different parts of] America. We are going to Brazil. We are going to shoot in Puerto Rico. We are going to do the Dominican Republic and a few other countries. We want to highlight Latino kids around the world. Our plan is to do what we have done in the past. We want to incorporate a bit of culture but also showcase the beautiful hair as well. We are very excited about that.

7. Given that your art is so unique, have you ever received pushback on snapshots? If so, how did you manage to navigate that?

(Photo Credit: CreativeSoul Photography)

Well, we definitely receive pushback, ahh, you know? All the time! [Laughs] We get some people that feel left out. We get some people that do not understand the mission. And, to that, we say, “Our work may not be for everyone.” But our mission is simple. Our mission is to empower girls of color around the world. By doing that, we are not trying to downplay any other purpose. We are not trying to exclude anyone. We are trying to uplift children of color. Sometimes we just have to ignore some of the negative feedback. Still, for the most part, people have a positive outlook on our initiatives and what we are trying to do. You have to take the good with the bad.

8. You’ll be exploring with your cameras and taking on parts of Europe, Africa and South America. What will be the theme of this next excursion?

Yes, that is correct. What we have not announced on our social channels is [what was] published by Publishers Weekly. We just signed a book deal for our AfroArt Series. Through that, we are going to take the AfroArt Series global. So we are going to capture kids around the world. This will be at least a year-long project that we will embark on. And we are just taking photos of natural hair kids. We are very, very, very excited about that. The book deal is with St. Martin’s Press.

9. Congratulations! You started CreativeSoul Photography in 2009. What is to come as you approach your first decade in business together? What’s next?

(Photo Credit: CreativeSoul Photography)

We kind of built this brand slowly over time. When we first started out, we were capturing a little bit of everything. Then we started to narrow our focus. Now that we have our focus, we want to expand this [beyond] a photography company. How can we use this as a platform of empowerment for kids around the world? Whether it is through fashion or it is through art, [there are] some different things to consider.

We are also working with a lot of educators around the world. That was something that we had not thought of when we first started doing the photography series. While the series started to gain more attention, we began to receive feedback from educators saying that they wanted to use some of our work in their schools. So we use that as part of our mission, too. [We use it] to empower girls to love themselves, to love the skin that they are in and to love the hair that they are born with. As of now, the tentative title for the book is “Halo.”

View CreativeSoul Photography’s crucial and captivating AfroArt Series.

Article By Bianca Alysse Mercado for Mitú 

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is an incurable music junkie, who lives for dance, art, and urban culture. She has worked alongside some of the most ingenious entertainment moguls. Her ink covered hands grabbed her BA in Journalism and ran to New York City.

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