This photograph is part of Thomas’s series UNBRANDED: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968–2008, which features images appropriated from magazine advertisements aimed at African Americans or that feature black subjects. The ads, from which Thomas digitally removed all branding information, were made for a range of products, including hair relaxers, menthol cigarettes, and body lotions, and for multinational companies such as McDonald’s, Coca–Cola, and American Express. The ads reinforce generalizations and cultural stereotypes around race, gender, and ethnicity and reflect how a culture views itself and its aspirations. His investigation encourages viewers to look critically at how mass–produced and widely disseminated images in the media construct and reinforce stereotypes about African American life, and how the public participates in these narratives.
Gallery label from XL: 19 New Acquisitions in Photography, May 10, 2013–January 6, 2014.