Hair growth is a photography project, created by Ryan Baker, for people to express their stories of identity, hardship, and personal growth about their hair and ultimately about themselves.
Selena Shannon, LA, CA
At first it was to be defiant. I knew that when I graduated high school that I wanted to do something different with my hair. My mom always wanted me to stick with things that were "natural". But now since I was turning 18 and about to leave the house it was time to do something for me. I went through all the different color options, cuts and styles. But, finally I decided I wanted to do something that mattered to me. That meant something more than just a random decision. Going to a predominantly white, all girls high school my hair was looked at often. When I let my natural curls shine girls would ask if I got a haircut or a perm. But, I didn't, I was just letting my natural flow. Throughout high school I always felt like I was the "black friend". And over time you begin to fall into the stereotype. I was tired of being type casted and looked upon differently because of the way I look. I am just a person like everyone else.
Jex Nguyen, San Francisco, CA
For me, my hair is another medium of art. Some personal features such as my height, my ethnic and gender identities--those I can't change, but my hair is the one creative outlet that is in my control. Being able to present and appropriately express myself in versatile ways gives me comfort and confidence against my adversities. Flowers represent something indescribably special to me that always leaves me breathless and in awe. I think they're a reminder that beauty has no gender and shouldn't have any other social roles and expectations. My hair allows me to embrace my identities as well as what I used to see as my flaws. Above all, my hair is most likely the single characteristic that balances my happiness because it possesses feminine and masculine qualities, which reassesses the standards of gender expectations and discontinues the gender binary
When I was 13 I went through five rounds of chemotherapy to combat my acute myeloid leukemia. I chose a neon pink wig to cover my bald head during this battle.
As terrible of an experience as that all was, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a hairstyle in which I felt so much like myself as I did when I wore that pink wig.
I was totally kick-ass.
After I stopped therapy, my hair started growing back, so I stopped wearing the wig.
m now 21 going to school in New York City living this totally new life and honestly, I feel very distanced from my experience with cancer and the hair issues that came with it. Cancer was key in creating who I am as a person, but it seems like it happened about 100 years ago. I wear my hair almost as basic as possible nowadays. It’s pretty long, brown-black, and wavy, but I usually straighten it if it’s going to be down. I really have no desire to go pink again, or to do anything too different for that matter. And I am actually very curious about why that is. Maybe I like that with this boring hair, there aren’t a lot of assumptions a person can make about me.
Alana Oakland, CA
I thought I was a freak. Pictures had been flying around the Internet of “Celebrities Without Eyebrows!” and comments about how important eyebrows were, how without them these people were ugly, disgusting. I looked in the mirror and drew brown lines over my eyes like parentheses, like a note of exception (see, I’m not a freak). But it never stopped feeling that way. I didn’t have eyelashes either, and without layers of liquid eyeliner slopped across my eyelids, I had alien eyes. Trichotillomania, a deceptive disease, looking like I had something worse, something devastating, but instead was something that people told me I should “just stop doing.”
And that’s the thing about Trich. It gets talked about like a bad habit, like casual addiction. Because it’s cosmetic, people act like it won’t destroy your life. But instead, it cuts little unacknowledged notches in your brain, where every time you look at yourself, it’s imperfect. There’s something wrong, and if you just pulled that one hair out, it would be right. But then it isn’t. But then it never is.
No one likes to talk about it
Cierra Johnson, Boston MA
I remember thinking I needed long straight hair to be truly pretty. In many ways, I still do. I’m not sure when or how that thought process came to me. In my household I was always told how beautiful I was and never had a perm. I suppose the media and other outside influences brought the thought on. Nowadays I tend to wear my hair completely natural and have received positive reactions. People say things like, “oh I love your hair!”, or “I love your curl pattern!” “How did you get your hair like that?” Even these questions anger me sometimes, because I feel that they are really asking me how I got the “pretty” curls, not the kinky coils that many other black women have. Even with all the compliments I still think to myself, “I look better with straight hair." The other day when I was about to go to a party my sister said nonchalantly, “Oh and you should not wear your glasses and you should straighten your hair.” I thought nothing of it, after all she’s right, I do look better without my glasses and with my hair straightened. Or do I? Why is that? Why do I have to have long straight hair or “good” curls to be pretty? What if I had kinky short hair and dark skin? Would random people still compliment my looks or ask me how I do my hair, if it’s all mine and how did I get it to look that way? I want to say yes, that I’m beautiful either way and people recognize that, but I’m not sure.
Rachel Chao, Boston MA
I introduced myself to this guy, “I’m Rachel.”
He shook my hand, and immediately said, “What are you?”
I paused, tried to leave it with a muttering of “just mixed.”
“Oh, I know,” he went on, with persistence, “I just want to know what kind of Asian you are.”
I disliked him instantly. What KIND of Asian I am?
The truth is, being any kind of minority allows people to take your appearance and compartmentalize it. Your actions are taken as well, and you’re told “But you don’t act like other people of that race!” Stereotypes go far beyond mean jokes told by seventh grade boys.
But I’ll be there, if it happens. Us mixed race kids have to stick together, right?
Gloria Palma, Moraga CA
Being of mixed race, my identity – how I perceive myself and how others perceive me – often relies on my physical appearance. Through the second half of my teens, and now entering my 20s, I am recognizing how my hair contributes to my mixed race identity.
The decision to stop relaxing my hair was made during the second half of my freshman year of college. As a college student with little time and money to continue to chemically straighten my hair, and recognizing the harmful effects it had on my hair and scalp, I decided that I would focus on growing it out and taking better care of it. The year and a half since my last relaxer has been a learning experience, learning how to stop being self conscious of my “bushy”...
My hair combines my entire heritage from across the globe. The various shades of brown that are in my hair, with strands of blonde and red (“ehu” in Hawaiian), reflects my family and strengthen my identity within myself. Wearing my hair curly makes me feel proud to be myself – my Black, Latina, Hawaiian and Filipino – self
Leah Weigel, Boston, MA
There is something fascinating about caring around my dead cells on my head. It is the first thing people see when they look at me- a display of what I used to be made of. I change everyday and the growth of my hair represents the growth inside of me as I learn.
I love having long hair and how it flows down my back like a waterfall. I love to feel like Galadriel or a mermaid or fairy princess. I love the feeling of wind brushing it from my face, or somebody playing with it while I fall asleep. A lot of positive associations come from my head hair.
Nani Schroeder, Lafayette, CA
"For a long time I have been really self-conscious about my hair. I have dyed it blond since I was about 16 and I always wanted it to be different. I decided to dye my hair pink because it was a way to let go of all of that. I decided I wanted my hair pink and I didn't think much else of it. Dying my hair pink was a way of saying "fuck you, I do what i want."