Humanæ, a “work in progress” by photographer Angélica Dass, intends to deploy a chromatic range of different human skin colours. Everyone pictured in the project have volunteered to be photographed, and Dass intentionally does not reveal the sitter’s nationality, gender, age, race, social class or religion. Nor has Dass set a specific date on which to finish the project, which she sees as a colossal global mosaic. At this point, the project would only come to end if she managed to photograph every person on earth.
A photographic taxonomy of these proportions has been rarely undertaken; those who preceded Dass were characters of the 19th Century who, for various reasons – legal, medical, administrative or anthropological – used photographs to establish different types of social control. Dass’s taxonomy, however, adopts the format of the PANTONE ® guides, which gives her collection a degree of hierarchical horizontality that dilutes the false pre-eminence of some races over others based on skin colour or social condition.
The PANTONE ® guides have become one of the main systems of colour classification, based on alphanumeric codes that allow them to be recreated accurately in any medium. The process followed in Humanæ is similarly rigorous and systematic: the background for each portrait is tinted with a tone identical to a sample of 11 x 11 inch pixels taken from the face of the sitter. Thus, the artist makes an “innocent” displacement of the socio-political context of the racial problem to a ‘safe’ medium – the guides – where the primary colors have exactly the same importance as the mixed ones.
An installation of Dass’s Humanæ portraits will be mounted on the façade of the August Wilson Centre in downtown Pittsburgh on September 25, and will remain on view until August 2016. The Magenta Foundation is a proud supporter of the project.