Black Madonna. (Emerald Arguelles)

Black lives matter. It is more important than ever to acknowledge that and to say those words.

It is even more essential to acknowledge those words, especially after what happened last week in Washington, D.C. It is especially important to acknowledge as we attempt to make sense of the mob attack on the Capitol that included white nationalists and conspiracy theorists parading through our nation’s sacred halls carrying Confederate flags.

It is especially important when, last week, we saw nooses on Capitol grounds. It is especially important to clearly and concisely reject and condemn all of those terrible displays.

Savannah-based photographer Emerald Arguelles’s work is a testimony and a celebration of the importance of Black lives, of lives that have been for generations, and continue to be, marginalized and pushed aside.

For 10 weeks, Arguelles created the work in her series “Isn’t it Beautiful?” The work is deeply personal for Arguelles, inspired by her own experience growing up in beauty salons and barbershops. The title of Arguelles’s work is taken from an interview with Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver, in which she talked about the Black is Beautiful movement and underscored the importance of Black women loving themselves in their natural state.

Arguelles gave In Sight a more in-depth description of the work comprising “Isn’t it Beautiful?”:

“Isn’t It Beautiful?” encompasses the complexities, culture, beauty and hustle of Black men and women in the South. The series followed barbers, hairstylists and the men and women who were serviced in those spaces. Beauty salons and barbershops are the cornerstones of every Black community.

As a child, my mother did hair for 12 hours. Twelve hours of greasing, braiding, twisting, coloring and sewing while I swept the hair around her feet, carefully to not sweep her feet because of its bad luck. Every person who came into her door came for conversation, advice and reformation. However, gentrification has caused American Black communities to suffer attempts of erasure.

The series references Black Madonnas, wise elders of the South, beauty salon and barbershop advertisements, and generation lineage of barbers and hairstylists. All the images were shot on 35mm black-and-white film, developed and printed myself. This process was essential because of the delicacy and care required to develop film, correlating to the hairstylists’ and barbers’ necessary delicacy and care.”

Black lives matter. It is more important than ever to utter those words.

You can see more of Arguelles’s work on her website, here.


Heavenly Hands. (Emerald Arguelles)

Line Up. (Emerald Arguelles)

Lineage. (Emerald Arguelles)

Relaxer. (Emerald Arguelles)

Marvin. (Emerald Arguelles)

20-40 minutes. (Emerald Arguelles)

Griot. (Emerald Arguelles)

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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