All it takes to go into business is a comb and a razor blade. After that it’s about relating to people, making them smile, and giving them a haircut that makes them feel so good about how they look that they will definitely be back next time. This makes barbering the most democratic of professions.
In a country like Haiti, with staggering levels of unemployment, barbershops and salons de coiffure are everywhere; you don’t need a fancy education or powerful backers to open one. It’s an obvious business for the self-starter, the person who looks around at a landscape of sparse opportunities and says “I’ll make my own.”
For the same reason, there is a lot of competition. One of the ways barbershops and hair salons announce their presence in the hectic and colorful business landscape of urban Haiti is by decorating their establishments with large portraits of popular musicians, athletes or models copied from haircut catalogues and hair-care product packaging. Called poste, from the english word “poster,” these painted heads immediately recall the barbershop sign-boards that are widely used in Africa. In recent years, however, the Haitian paintings have been getting larger, there are more of them, and the technical skill of the painters has radically improved.
Amazing Barbershop is a website, book project and exhibition concept that celebrates the thriving tradition of tonsorial art in Haiti. It includes hundreds of images of beauty salon and barbershop art in both country and city and interviews with the artists responsible.