Hank Willis Thomas


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About this Project:

UNBRANDED is a series of images taken from magazine advertisements targeting a black audience or featuring black subjects, which I digitally manipulated and appropriated. In this work-in-progress project that will ultimately span from 1969 through the present, I have removed all aspects of the advertising information, e.g., text, logos, in order to reveal what being sold. Nothing more has been altered. I believe that in part, advertising’s success rests on its ability to reinforce generalizations around race, gender, and ethnicity which can be entertaining, sometimes true, and sometimes horrifying, but which at a core level are a reflection of the way a culture views itself or its aspirations. By “unbranding” advertisements I can literally expose what Roland Barthes refers to as “what-goes-without-saying” in ads, and hopefully encourage viewers to look harder and think deeper about the empire of signs that have become second nature to our experience of life in the modern world.

Hank Willis Thomas’ Website

Hank Willis Thomas on 30 Americans