Powerful photography turning heads globally puts on a show in Greenville
I envy the effortless wisdom of children. Eat when you’re hungry. Befriend others. Play often. It’s easy to flex your imagination when you’re not in the habit of making assumptions.
“We’re always joking and playing around,” laughs Kahran Bethencourt. “I tell people I don’t take anything too seriously, you know? [That’s why] I love working with kids. It’s unlimited creativity. We can say that we’re about to put them in a bubblewrap dress, and they’re like, ‘Let’s do it!’”
With their joyful, open, and childlike approach to making art and telling moving stories, it comes as no surprise that Kahran Bethencourt and Regis Bethencourt of Creative Soul Photography have hit upon a few profound truths in their inspired journey to stardom.
“Black youth often feel left out of the fairy tales that they read,” reflects Kahran, “and I know a lot of people think it’s not that important, but as a kid, that’s kind of your world, right? You’re thinking about the fairy tales that you read and stories you see at the movies, and it’s important for you to feel included.”
Natural Hair Movement
The Greenville native shares a booming studio with her husband and business partner, Regis, in Atlanta—but the pair have worked all over the world and seen their images go viral multiple times. The roots of their story start with hair: specifically, the natural hair movement.
“We met as graphic designers, and in 2006, my husband decided to go to school for photography, and I learned along with him. At the time, we were shooting a little bit of everything, even things we didn’t love, like weddings. I asked, ‘If we’re going to build a business, shouldn’t it be something we love doing?’ I knew that we had a passion for photographing kids, but I didn’t know at the time that we could make a living from doing it,” says Kahran, who credits her nieces as her first muses.
As the duo expanded into children’s fashion brands, they noticed that all of the young models had straightened hair. “Parents thought that’s what they needed to do to get their kids into Gap or Old Navy. I thought, even [at such] an early age, we’re teaching these kids that they’re not acceptable, that their hair is not good enough. So, we took it upon ourselves to do a couple of personal projects showcasing natural hair,” adds Kahran. “At the time it was something that people hadn’t seen before, and they started to share it. I’d say that was the beginning of our niche.”
The duo’s first collection, The AfroArt series, was intended to recognize and celebrate the beauty and versatility of Black hair—and launched them to the world stage with coverage from CNN and CBS to BBC London and Glamour Brasil. “As we started to travel around the US and abroad, we met so many different kids with amazing stories, and that’s what we documented in our GLORY book,” says Kahran, who then worked with Regis and other writers to launch their newest collection and book, CROWNED. “[CROWNED] is our take on existing fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White, as well as on African folklore stories and new fairy tales of our own.”
And now that journey has arrived right back at home in Greenville, at the just-opened Fine Arts Center gallery inside Senior Action on East North Street. “My mom works at Senior Action, and we’ve been talking about us doing a residency for while now,” smiles Kahran. “This will be our first time doing an exhibition in Greenville, and it’ll be a visual journey through our work as creatives from the beginning to now. You’ll be able to experience not only some of the different projects that we’ve been working on, but how our work has evolved over time.” Mark your calendars—the stunning exhibit runs through the end of November.
See the Creative Soul Show
Faces of the Diaspora: A Visual Journey by CreativeSoul Photography
September 29—November 30
Senior Action, 3715 E. North St., Ste. K, Greenville, SC 29615