An intimate photographic exploration of the ways black barber shops operate as sites for the cultivation of black male identity and wellness.
There’s something about a fresh haircut that can change a Black man’s outlook on the world, change his outlook on himself. The experience extends beyond just the cut but to the environment of the barber shop. Grow-ing up, getting a hair cut was a weekly event Antonio M. Johnson looked forward to more than anything. His uncle Jason was a barber and embodied everything cool. There in that tilted chair, under the hand of his uncle, surrounded by members of his community and totems of a shared experience, Johnson felt safe—felt like anything was possible. Over the years, he came to understand that barber shops are more than places simply to get a cut. They are about the only spaces in Ameri-can life created where Black men can speak and receive feedback about who we are, who we want to be, and what we believe to be true about the world around us. The interpretation of the barber shop as community center falls short of capturing what they really are for so many Black men: sanctuaries in a hostile land.
You Next is an intimate photographic exploration of the ways Black barber shops operate as sites for the cultivation of Black male identity and wellness in major US cities—Gary, Indi-ana; Washington DC; New York City; Oakland; Atlanta; Los Angeles; Detroit; New Orleans; Montgomery; Memphis, and Johnson’s home-town of Philadelphia. These photos, interviews, and essays tell the full story of the Black barber shop in America. “You next” is what a barber says to customers to communicate that they’re on deck for a haircut; it’s the question between customers to determine where they are in line. Thus, it is an invitation, an invocation, an affirmation. Because after waiting your turn in a barber shop, sharing, laughing, debating, those magic words signify you are about to be transformed.