Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair by Michael July

April 27 - August 18, 2013

Over five years, photographer Michael July approached a variety of individuals and asked them to participate as subject models for a volume he was creating to chronicle the evolution of the Afro in America. He was able to capture the creme de la creme of Afros as worn by people of virtually every shade, ethnicity, country and age group. This exhibition shows pictorially the power, beauty and glorious nature of the 'Fro and tells the deeper "hairstory" of each of its models. This exhibition, inspired by the original book, captures the spirit and essence of the Afro today and pays homage to the historic significance of natural hair iconic voyagers.

BORN AND RAISED in Brooklyn, New York Michael July has led a diverse and unparalleled life. Influenced from a very early age by parents who were deeply into painting, drawing, designing and making clothes. Michael gravitated towards the arts, first becoming a painter himself in middle school and then writing prose and later producing and creating music for himself and other artists throughout his high school years. He went on to work in artist management and public relations for one of the most respected companies in NYC, Artist International Representatives also known as A.I.R.. He discovered and help develop a slew of great independent bands and recording artists. Quickly distinguishing himself among his colleagues as a crucial player in the downtown music scene of the 90s. As well as managing acts Michael would soon become an in-demand DJ. Playing at some of the top clubs of that era, Tramps, New Music Cafe and CBGB's Gallery to name a few under the name DJ July. His soulful playing has earned him quite a reputation in the dance music circle as one of the few masters of the form.

Not being one to stick to one style of expression, Michael who always has a deep passion for Black culture would soon start amassing a large collection of rare books, magazines, videos and movies from the 60s, 70s, 80s & 90s. His much sort after collection would soon be projected at popular dance parties and events in and around New York City. Out of such a focused interest it was only natural that Michael would start shooting videos himself. "I wanted to document all of the dynamic and cool cultural happenings that was bursting all around me." With that as his impetus he would emerge as a true social documentarian. Shooting dancers, performing artists, fashion shows and others at cultural venues, clubs and festivals was his supreme mission. From 2000 to 2006 he would solidify his craft.

Somewhere during the latter part of this period Michael July would buy a basic Panasonic point and shoot camera to supplement in still images what he was shooting on video. Within a year one of the top photographers in the country Terrence Jennings saw some of his photos and was so impressed with his eye for photography that he encouraged Michael to buy a DSLR camera, which he did. Soon he was documenting the same thing he was doing with video but with photos and establishing a portfolio that was quite commanding. The next year, New Years Eve 2006 to be exact as Michael explains it "I had a epiphany. At an Afro Punk party I noticed the most attractive young couple with large, perfectly rounded Afros. I wanted to shoot them so badly but was a bit hesitant because they were in such a playful zone that I was afraid I would interrupt it. Then out of nowhere they both looked at me and simultaneously asked "Aren't you going to shoot us?" Well that was the beginning of it. I decided then and there that I would do a coffee table book on Afros. I was going to pay respect historically to those who rocked it in places like East Africa and later in America in the 60s and 70s but mainly my purpose would be to capture the 'Afro Renaissance' across the country that was starting to happen." Fast forward to January 2013. Michael July through Natural Light Press is releasing the coffee table and lifestyle book, "AFROS" - 'A Celebration of Natural Hair'.

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