Like so many underdeveloped places, South Africa’s townships (often written off by tourists as undesirable and dangerous) have long been rich sources of legendary music and culture. As explored in British photographer Simon Weller‘s beautiful new book “South African Township Barbershops & Salons,” proprietors take great pride in designing their businesses, which function as much more than a place to get a haircut—in spite of their humble surroundings.
Signage alone speaks to a tradition of sign painting. Weller—with help from revered South African designer and book contributor Garth Walker—shows the effort put into personalizing salons, from the homemade graphics to a signature style of cut.
From “Judgment Day” to “Boys II Men” salons and those tucked behind the doors of shipping containers, Weller’s bright portraits sheds light on a rarely-seen side of the country, a testament to the hopeful spirit that remains in these communities even as they continue to suffer the effects of apartheid.
Interviews with store owners, sign makers and customers help flesh out the story, positioning the spaces as not just salons and barber shops, but as community centers for socializing, gossip, networking and other connection-making.
“South African Township Barbershops & Salons” sells from Amazon.