Book Review: Hair Stories by Rohina Hoffman
Hair is so ubiquitous, it’s a common thread not unlike the weather. Seemingly everyone has a comment or observation about the subject…
Hair is so ubiquitous, it’s a common thread not unlike the weather. Seemingly everyone has a comment or observation about the subject. ‘How does my hair look?’, ‘I cried when my hair was cut,’ or ‘I’m having a ‘bad hair day’. Hair Stories is centered around the experience of women and their hair, yet the experience is still universal to some degree. Who among us has not had a bad hair day, bad haircut, or the experience of being happy when their hair looks exactly like they want? Through this project, Hoffman specifically addresses female identity, personality, femininity, history, and many of the aspects that are attached to the subject. Each woman in the book presents her own story about themselves and their hair. Hoffman also includes an inserted sheet where the reader can scan a QR code and hear excerpts of audio interviews of the women sharing their stories as well. By presenting the womens’ voices along with their portraits, I thought this made the stories even more personal.
In her essay in the book, Hoffman writes: “What I discovered is that hair is a language, a shield, and a trophy. Hair is a construct reflecting our identity, history, femininity, personality, our innermost feelings of self-doubt, aging, vanity, and self-esteem. Hair also has deep sociological roots. It can be indicative of a certain religious or political belief system and like its genetic code, is complicated and touches our very core.”
Hair Stories is a series of excerpted interviews and color portraits of a diverse array of women, that explores the complex relationship women have with their hair. Indian-born, Los Angeles–based photographer Rohina Hoffman used the interviewing skills she has developed in her training as a neurologist to establish an intimate rapport that allowed for a truthful dialogue about the role of hair in these womens’ lives. Though it was conceived and shot before the #MeToo movement, this salient project presents hair as a metaphor for identity, femininity and the manner in which women struggle for control over their own bodies in a misogynistic world. Hair Stories does not present itself as a politically charged story, however, and it also shows that hair is more than just style or aesthetics; it is a physical manifestation of the ongoing hope and history of women. I reflected upon the women in my own life in a way that was unexpected for me. The universal became personal. Being cognizant of their own hair stories, and the differences which make them strong individuals, allowed me to learn more about them in a way that is accessible to all of us.
Text and photographs by Rohina Hoffman
Introduction by Emily Lambert-Clements, Art Advisor and Former Assoc. Fraenkel Gallery.
Essay by Esther R. Berry, Fashion and Gender Studies Scholar and Curator, Ryerson University.
Hardcover 7.25in x 10.5in
92 pages with insert 38 color photographs and excerpts of interviews.
Rohina Hoffman is a fine art portrait photographer working in southern California. Born in India and raised in New Jersey, Hoffman grew up in a family of doctors spanning three generations. While an undergraduate at Brown University, Hoffman also studied photography at Rhode Island School of Design and was a staff photographer for the Brown Daily Herald. A graduate of Brown University Medical School and resident at UCLA Medical Center, her training led to a career as a neurologist. Taught to be a skilled observer of her patients, Hoffman was instilled with a deep and unique appreciation of the human experience. Hoffman now works full time as a photographer.
For more information about the photographer, go to: https://www.rohinahoffman.com. To purchase a copy of Hair Stories, please visit the website here: https://www.womenshairstories.com/buy/hair-stories
Originally published at F-Stop Magazine.