Hank Willis Thomas
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.