Hank Willis Thomas has created the Br@anded series as a result of, in his words, “an exploration, and subsequent appropriation of the language of advertising.” His work looks at race, class, and history through advertising, focusing predominantly on the use of the African American male body in advertisements. The images draw connections current advertisements that feature the male African American figure and the cotton and slave trades that made America so wealthy. According to the artist, “My goal with the work is to employ the familiar or Roland Barthes what-goes-without-saying, to draw connections and provoke conversations about issues and histories that are often forgotten or avoided in our commerce-infused daily lives.”
Hank Willis Thomas was raised in New York City. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He received an MFA in Photography and an MA in Visual Criticism at the California College of the Arts. His photographs have been published in numerous books and publications including: Reflections in Black: A History of African American Photographers (W.W. Norton, 2000); 25 under 25: American Photographers (Power House Books, 2003); Black: A Celebration of a Culture (Hylas Publishing, 2004); and Winter in America (self-published in 2006 with Kambui Olujimi). His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including PS1, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Zacheta National Museum of Art in Poland, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and in the 2006 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art. Thomas participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Program in 2005.