Yasemin Hassan deep dives into her photo series and exhibition Talking Textures – celebrating, educating and redefining the cultural significance of textured hair.

Talking Textures event, April 2024

Curated by barber Yasemin Hassan and captured through the lens of photographer Yeliz Zaifoglu, the photo series and exhibition Talking Textures dives deep into the intricate relationship between beauty, cultural identity, and the resilient nature of hair, especially within the Southwest Asian & North African (SWANA) communities. 

Hosted at Ugly Duck London, Yasemin sees Talking Textures as more than an exhibition; it’s a movement to celebrate, educate, and redefine the cultural significance of textured hair. Spanning across 26 photographs, a short video, and a panel discussion that was held on 12 April, the project seeks to bring to light the challenges, beauty rituals, and the profound connection between hair and cultural identity in SWANA regions. 

Yasemin herself has emerged as a pivotal figure for individuals with textured hair in London, particularly within the SWANA community. While that’s thanks in part to extensive experience on high-end fashion shoots and London Fashion Week, it’s also coupled with personal conversations within her community. Her mission is to “decolonise” perceptions of hair and address the underrepresentation of SWANA identities in the hair industry. 

Roman Sys
Yasemin Hassan

Working closely with Dania Arafeh, founder of 3EIB – a SWANA fashion platform reclaiming the Arabic word 3Eib, meaning ‘shame’ – this project is a reaction to the underlying shame that SWANA individuals often experience from others within their own cultures, as well as what’s taught in the mainstream media about beauty. 

Yasemin breaks down the concept behind each image, and the powerful message each shot conveys… 

Reclaiming Control 
Riyam Salim  

Reclaiming Control 
Michaela Mousicous wearing 3EIB  
Hair makes us feel powerful. We use our hair to reclaim our identity. Talking Textures explores this by considering the amount of people that go to a salon after a big life change and want to consolidate this with a drastic hair change. These images in the series are about power and taking control over our hair.  

Carving Imperfections 
Ali Nasreldin wearing Mehdi Studio  
The media often idealises the ‘perfect curls’ – no frizz and a solid, clean shape when focusing on afro textures. In the full series of images Talking Textures plays on the phrase ‘bedhead’ to contrast to perfect curls. 

Changing Shape 
Peyam Zangana    
People with curly hair often talk about it being ‘too big’ and ask me to make their hair sit flatter. In full series collection, Talking Textures celebrates the shape using the concept  of ‘hat hair’, contrasting to this image which is the unrealistic flattened hair shape. 

Masking Identity  
Eman Alali wearing Isis Dünya  
Many people use hair length and fringes to mask and hide their SWANA features. Talking Textures plays on the use of hair as a mask by using the concept of ‘straggly ends’ to do this. 

Embracing Femininity 
Tahini Molasses wearing Ziyad Buainain 
Talking Textures closes the series by questioning: What is femininity? Does femininity have to be gendered within SWANA communities? Many women idealise long hair as being the height of femininity and beauty. The final set of images through this concept makes the statement that femininity can be unconventional. 

Director/curator/lead hair: Yasemin Hassan 
Photographer: Yeliz Zaifoglu  
Make-up: Tina Khatri  
Styling: 3EIB / Dania Arafeh
Hair assistants: Shaun Birmingham, Amy Clarke, Matthew Tharp 
Shot at Woolf Kings X