During week 7, it was time to work on my work in progress portfolio. This was a late posting as I had to translate an interview.  As mentioned in my previous blogs my project for this module will move a little away from the internal barbershops and the quirky visual aspects of barbershop life to some featured items which play a big part of a barbershop culture and transition into the future of Hong Kong barbershop history and culture, These sidekick themes will be 1. Female Barbers, 2. Barbershop event, and 3. Tattoo artists. These are all entrenched in the Art of barbering and form an essential backdrop to the evolving life of both Hong Kong barbers and the people around them.

Having already taken a full set of shots at the temple of groom event in Hong Kong it was now time for me to turn to Female barbers as my next featured set of pics.

I also wanted to explore the cultural, professional, and economic aspects of a female barbers life in what is still a male-dominated occupation but seems there are some who are breaking this perception. Such as Julian Leung from the 59 Tattoo & Barbershop in Kwa Wan, Hong Kong.

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FUJI XT2 camera photoshoot of female barber Julian Leung at 59 Tattoo & Barbershop, Kwa Wan, Hong Kong 2017
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Hasselblad 500 cm film camera photoshoot of female barber Julian Leung at the 59 Tattoo & Barbershop  Kwa Wan, Hong Kong 2017
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Another FUJI XT2 camera photoshoot of female barber Julian Leung at the 59 Tattoo & Barbershop 2017

I began reading stories of female barbers who are not based in Hong Kong, such as Ashley Overholt, a 29-year-old barber who creates styles like clipper cuts, classic straight-razor shaves, and fades at Freemans Sporting Club barbershop in New York City.

I finished cosmetology school about 10 years ago. My first job was at an upscale salon doing women’s hair for almost five years. Instead of just having fun with hair and colour, I found myself becoming a therapist, which overwhelmed me. “That’s when an old friend of mine opened up a cool and trendy barbershop in Milwaukee. I went to visit and it was such a relaxed environment. Everyone was laughing. There was good music. People were drinking beer. I was like, This is cool. So I got a job there and it changed everything. All of a sudden, work was fun again for me.” (Refinery29.com, 2017)

What Ashley said resonated with what many male barbers said about why and how they started their careers, many had said they enjoyed the relaxed working environment and the cool aspect of this work, these things were mentioned on more than a few occasions during my barbershop photo shoots, so female barber aspersions and career paths were very similar to male barbers here in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a place where men like to dominate and in fact during my photoshoots last year in a Hong Kong barbershop, I was told a female barber gave up her job because her husband thought it was inappropriate. So I was interested in what other female barbers experiences were overseas and also here in Hong Kong.

Another female barber named Emi Tice talked about her life as a Barber, (HelloGiggles, 2015) “I am a barber. There are people who argue with me about this. I once had a man who was sitting in my chair getting his hair cut argue that as a woman I couldn’t be a barber. But, well, since I was the one cutting his hair, he was clearly wrong. Men can be hairstylists. Why can’t a woman be a barber? Every female barber is different and I don’t pretend to be able to speak for all of them, but so many of us face a lot of common challenges. It’s time these challenges are recognized and that our talents are recognized, too, but most importantly it’s time that we are accepted in the community. We are women and we are barbers, too. Get, used to it because we aren’t going anywhere.”

Andrea Dawn Clark wrote about an interview with some female barbers, here is a sample below.

(Clark, 2016)“These rock star women barbers broke the gender barrier, and they’ve never looked back.  Kristi Faulkner (@kristiwahlclippers) Wahl Education & Artistic Team member

  • Her reason for becoming a barber… When I first got my license, I was in a military post. At the shop on the base, we did cosmetology and barbering. I was fascinated with how fast the shop owner could do a fade.
  • Her biggest hurdle… Being a white female with blonde hair and blue eyes, it can be a mental hurdle for clients of a different ethnic background. 
  • Her speciality… Different textures of hair. I always say in my classes, I don’t see colour walking through the door, only dollar signs.
  • Her biggest accomplishment… Having an incredible family, and showing my children what you can achieve through hard work.
  • Her favourite tool… The Wahl 5 Star Cordless Magic Clip. It’s lightweight, has a long run time and a taper lever for easy fading. 
  • Her best advice to future women barbers… Get a professional education and take all the classes you can find.”

Well, it was time for me to do my own interview during my photo shoot with my chosen female barber named Julian Leung from 59 Tattoo & Barbershop in Kwa Wan, Hong Kong.(Pasu, 2017)

 

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Interview Transcript 2017 by Paul Peach and Translator Wong Kwok Kei

The interview was conducted inside the barbershop itself, and what was interesting was that her experiences and build up of her career as a professional barber was quite similar to other female and male barbers. As with the other female barbers mentioned in this blog, Julian’s favourite barbershop tool was her small size cordless clipper, which is consistent with male barbers that I spoke to last year and earlier this year.

Jujian talked about her life here in Hong Kong and how her barbering came about.

“My dad is a Hong Konger, and my mom is a Taiwanese. I was raised in Taiwan and returned to Hong Kong when I was sixteen years old. I found myself that I had no interest in academic study, so I decided to work in a salon until now and become a  barber. The pathway to switch to barbering started from a common interest of classics motor-cycling among friends. This led to a learning process to understand  ‘Rockabilly’and have opportunities to participate in ‘Pompadour’ barbering in those motorcycling activities. An idea came up to have a place for friends’  gathering at that time, and then the business has been booming and became a popular barber and tattoo shop. It’s like work with pleasure. We have three barbers, other three to four friends are also stationing here. I feel really happy working with a group of friends with no stress and argument. Look at this leather jacket. We bought some pins and badges from America to decorate the jacket, as we all like the ‘Rockabilly’ culture. But we don’t sell it, just for display. And this other one was done by Mike.”

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Julians Jacket she was referring to in her interview – 59 Tattoo & Barbershop in Kwa Wan, Hing Kong

When asked if she felt any different being a female barber and what, if any difficulties she has had as a female barber, she replied “I feel happy and comfortable to work with a male, whose character is easier- going. I have an easy-going character, so I do not find anything contradicting when I’m working with a male barber, and I feel very happy instead“.

I also asked if her family gave her support in her career and she said yes her parents supported her well.

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FUJI XT2 camera photoshoot of female barber Julian Leung at the 59 Tattoo & Barbershop in Kwa Wan, Hing Kong with her Mum and Dad 2017

Listening to Julian helped me to take photos of her and her family in a way which represents her and her profession and aspirations. I also wanted to show her in my images as the person she is as well as the barber.

Well as I see it if any male barber or client has any doubt about the skills and determination of female barbers, then they need to look no further than the work of Julian and other female barbers such as the U.K.s Peterborough stylist Liza Schwarz who made it into to the final of  Britain’s Best Wet Shaving Barber in 2014, but she is also the only woman to have made the cut, after beating fourteen barbers to win the East Anglia regional title.(KRUGER, 2014) and British hairdresser Samantha Lloyd overturned strict rules on jobs for women to become the first female barber in the United Arab Emirates.(Mail Online, 2017)

JULIAN 3 Barber 2017
Photos by Paul Peach 2017, Contact Sheet 1
JULIAN Barber 2 2017
Photos by Paul Peach 2017, Contact Sheet 2
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Photos by Paul Peach 2017, Contact Sheet 3
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Photos by Paul Peach 2017, Contact Sheet 4
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Photos by Paul Peach 2017, Contact Sheet 5

In my photoshoot, I used both digital and film cameras as I wanted to continue to appreciate both film and digital photography. We live in an age of moving images and videos and VR gaming experiences, but the still picture still has that magical value of being something to ponder and something to question or admire, in my work I want to use the memories of that day and also the memories of the image from a historical sense as part of the narrative. In other words, memories in images can form the basis of a story.

In my photographs, I like to evoke the viewer to inquire more and wanting to ask more about whats going on. I think my work in this project is still treading the fine line between authentic documentary to a little surreal, or even at time cinematic or dramatic

I like to think I am preserving the history of these memories and professional settings and iconic recycling, which seems to occur.

The recycling of icons or iconic or vintage moments made me think about social media again.

Martin Lister wrote (Lister, 2013a)  “When everyday digital photography meets social media, as it does in Flickr, there is an implicit acknowledgement of the inability of photos to hold onto certain moments”  He goes onto to say ” There is sadness and a longing in the relationship to memory and history that theorists Barthes ascribe to traditional photography, which may not be altogether present in the social construction of vernacular digital photography and its communities.

While there is often a focus on immediacy and disposability in relation to the ubiquity of digital imagery in social media, there is also a valuing of specific images as belonging to a person or cultural archive.”

I think what Lister was describing is the social or if you like the cultural change in the way we perceive or view photographs these days and in fact social media websites such as Instagram are really part of a community of people belonging to a particular group or category in the social circles of each particular platform. For example, Flickr is more of the display board of images with less social interaction, so it is known for this type of functionality, whereas sites such as LinkedIn are professional profile based where you mould your own group from your particular background or experience in work. Facebook is probably somewhere in between Instagram and Flickr. What I’m eluding to is the fact we choose our own platform to match our own lifestyle or direction.

Just as Barbershop life is built around a particular ideology of iconic or symbolic cultural background. Barbershop life is unique in that it incorporates all the social media of an online business but is entrenched in the physical and social aspects of community groups of real life as well as the virtual world of life we see each day.

Understanding digital culture will help me further to understand how my work can be developed commercially when I have completed my MA.

Lister also states (Lister, 2013b) “While the boundaries between amateur and professional are becoming difficult to discern on these sites, there are still norms and values to follow and judgments to be made regarding items such as choice of subject, lighting, colour, and framing.”

I guess some people would say this is a good thing and makes a platform for all types of photography, but there is an argument that social media is also losing that sense of Art and is leading to how many likes or followers you have and moves the focus away from Art, but more into personalities.

Adam Marelli wrote when talking about when style is a gimmick, and talks at length about Andy Warhol’s success in having a point of view within his work which he says means his work is not a gimmick, (Merelli, 2015) “There is no formula for art or photography, but there are pieces of the puzzle that are essential.”

When referring to Warhol ” He applied a straightforward style to his unique point of view to become an artist” And states that the process and development formed part of this process or puzzle pieces. To develop my work further I need to find more of these pieces of the puzzle and find my point of view or at least make it more clear.

 

References

Clark, A. (2016). Man Up: Successful Women Barbers | American Salon. [online] Americansalon.com. Available at: http://www.americansalon.com/men/man-up-successful-women-barbers [Accessed 1 Nov. 2017].

HelloGiggles. (2015). I’m a female barber—here’s what I wish people knew. [online] Available at: https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/im-a-female-barber-heres-what-i-wish-people-knew/ [Accessed 1 Nov. 2017].

KRUGER, M. (2014). Female barber makes the Best Shave final. [online] The Bluebeards Revenge. Available at: https://www.bluebeards-revenge.co.uk/blog/female-barber-makes-best-shave-final/ [Accessed 1 Nov. 2017].

Lister, M. (2013a). The photographic image in digital culture. London: Routledge, p.176.

Lister, M. (2013b). The photographic image in digital culture. London: Routledge, p.177.

Mail Online. (2017). Brit becomes the first female barber in the United Arab Emirates. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4746224/Brit-female-barber-United-Arab-Emirates.html [Accessed 1 Nov. 2017].

Merelli, A. (2015). When Style is a Gimmick. [online] Adam Marelli Photo. Available at: http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2015/02/when-style-is-a-gimmick/ [Accessed 8 Oct. 2017].

Pasu, P. (2017). 紋身 理髮 電單車 The 59 Tattoo & Barber Shop – 太陽報. [online] 太陽報. Available at: http://the-sun.on.cc/cnt/lifestyle/20151213/00482_001.html [Accessed 7 Oct. 2017].

Refinery29.com. (2017). This Female Barber Has Seen It All. [online] Available at: http://www.refinery29.com/confessions-of-a-female-barber [Accessed 1 Nov. 2017].

 

 

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