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Make up or not?

The first experiment of the research was to make a photo shooting with 5 performers and some questions appeared immediately. Are they using make up for the photos? And if yes, how is this make up? Since that moment on, I have understood that the process of a better representation of BIPoC on camera and stage can be only a result of a collective effort of different artists, as everything in theater.

Because the research is explicitly about the skin, make up is a pigmentation that would interfere the relation of the skin with the lighting. However, because we thought the representation aspect is more important than any other, the choice was from the performers, to use whatever made them feel more comfortable.

Before giving up on the use of make up and trying to learn about how to approach this theme without a specialist, the research had to get broader again, but this time in the direction from make up for black skin.

In architectural lighting, more specifically in retail lighting, recently there was a big development in what concerns tones of make up for darker skin as well as a good lighting for make up brands. When I was talking about the research in the WIL global gathering 2021, Neha Nandedkar reach out to me and showed me a quite complex research made by Claire Hamill and Anna Sandgrenin partnership with a lighting manufacturer in order to find a light source with a better spectrum for dark skin tones.

In film, the discussion is quite different because of how the camera can render the black skin. The cameras have all their specific settings, and because I am not a camera specialist, I refrain from going deeper on this topic. Yet, the contrast of the black skin is of course different from the white skin, and different filming techniques have to be used.

In my experience in theater and brief moments in which I have worked for film, the first goal of the make up artist would be to take out the oily appearance of the skin of the actor. Again, this is a paradigm that works only for white skin. In dark skin tones, if you take out the glow of their skin you basically withdraw the volume from the actors body and it becomes flat. Basically, if you notice in the greatest TV series and films with actors with melanin, you will notice that usually the skin is shining and reflecting the light on it.

In Theater is the same. Once I have started to work with dancers of color, I have noticed that in the photos of the end of the shows, the lighting usually looked better. It took me long to associate, but when I noticed that in the end of the shows the dancers were sweaty, and with the shining skin the lighting could be better seen in the dancer’s bodies. The lesson I have learned is, when on the stage, if the skin color of the dancer is dark, using oily makeupor some kind of glow to their skin will reflect the lighting much better, in a way that the performer will be better seen not only for their skin texture but as well for the volume of their bodies on the space.


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