Photographer Brandon Tauszik has focused on the barber shops of Oakland, California, in his series Tapered Throne. Brandon’s interest in barbershops was piqued when he realised how many there were where he lives. “I noticed a total city-wide lack of corporatised barbershops like Supercuts or Fantastic Sams. But there are dozens of independently owned barbershops,” he explains.
Oakland is a diverse city with a large African American community and Brandon feels this has helped the city’s flurry of barbershops. Before photographing anything, the photographer spent time in the shops and with the owners, and it became clear that for many, barbershops are more than a functional place to get a haircut. “The men there illuminated the differences between cutting straight and kinky hair but also the importance of these spaces to the black community in Oakland. So I set out to create a portrait of Oakland’s barbers and the less visible roles they assume.”
As cornerstones of the community providing a safe and comfortable environment for people to talk and form friendships, it was important to Brandon to give a glimpse into the barbershop owners’ stories. “Most of these barbers haven’t had the privilege of attending universities and they live mostly in neighbourhoods that deal with chronic violent crime,” he explains. “Many of these men have overcome struggles, worked hard to learn a trade, and now earn a wage for themselves and their families. The barbers I met were incredibly welcoming and warm, and genuine craftsmen who take great pride in the work they do.”
What elevates Brandon’s series is his interesting use of gifs to present the images. The repetitive movements of the barbers are on a constant loop, mimicking the turning of a barber’s striped pole outside of a shop. Shot in black and white, their actions are subtle, thoughtful and personal, and it’s fascinating to see the more pensive moments of a barbershop. “At the heart of a gif is the loop. You get the spotlight aspect of a photograph but you’re able to spend time within the moment as the same sliver of time passes on infinite repeat,” says Brandon. “I work with both film and photography, but gifs seem to exist between the two mediums. I shot Tapered Thrones entirely with video footage to be turned into gifs, hoping that the images allow for a deeper connection between the subject and the viewer that still photography might not have accomplished.”
About the Author
Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.