2022 Image Equity Fellow: McKayla Chandler

Explore this body of work by the California-based artist


Photograph by McKayla Chandler

McKayla Chandler is one of 20 Fellows who were awarded the inaugural Image Equity Fellowship. Learn more here.

Growing up in Minneapolis, McKayla Chandler’s mother would often braid her and her three sisters’ hair, and then photograph the styles as references for her circle of local clientele. However, it wasn’t until 2020, when Chandler moved back home due to the pandemic, that she rediscovered her mother’s braid book, the photographic ledger of all the different styles she had braided, and realized the artistic potential behind it. 

Only Mama's Hands (2023) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

McKayla’s mother MOBETTA braids her hair for the 1st time in her adult life in her mama's bedroom. The last time she sat down to get her hair braided by her mother she was in middle school. Minneapolis, MN.

Chandler’s series, MOBETTA, uses her mother’s braid book as a launch point into a documentation of contemporary braiding styles and culture. Chandler’s work captures the innate beauty and expressiveness of braiding as an art form and a means of self-expression, but also the symbolic potential of braiding styles as vessels for personal and communal history. Just as the braid book preserved a moment in her own family’s story, Chandler sees her project as a work of “archiving in real time.” 

The Blueprint (2007) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

A collage of original MOBETTA photos and designs by my mother Monshari Chandler, connecting past to present photographs taken by daughter McKayla Chandler.

As she notes, “There’s so much erasure that happens, especially in the Black community, especially being in America. One way to preserve this history is to just make sure you’re taking those photos, and understanding the importance of being able to pass these things down.”

Editorial statement by Aperture.

Chelsey Davis (2023) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

Braids by Ms. Grant on Chelsey Davis in Los Angeles, CA.

Delina Dilargachew (2022) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

Digital collage of East African braiding styles connected to Chandler’s mother MOBETTA and flowing into present day designs of KNOTTAS by Maliyah Puerto.

Aurora and Madison (2022) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

Braids by Faatimat and Ryuan in Chicago, Illinois.

Return to the Roots (2023) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

A self portrait in front of Chandler’s Los Angeles apartment fused with a photograph of her mom and dad in front of her great grandmother's home in Gary, Indiana. Photo assisted by Chelsey Davis.

Aurora and Madison (2022) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

Braids by Faatimat and Ryuan in Chicago, Illinois.

Mahogany (2022) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

Braided by Rosemery Duran taken in Brooklyn, NY. Mahogany Star brown is drenched by the sun shining through stained glass and her hair reminds me of the constellations. A star in the sky, a way back home.

New Orleans (2022) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

@Voodoobraids braiding Gabrielle Stark’s hair on her front porch in New Orleans.

Delina Dilargachew (2022) by McKayla ChandlerFREE THE WORK

Being from Ethiopia, Delina is given an East African braiding style by KNOTTAS at a Juneteenth celebration in Leimert Park.

McKayla HeadshotFREE THE WORK

McKayla Chandler

Click below to see more work from this California-based image maker:


Explore the other 2022 Image Equity Fellows’ final projects and learn more about the Fellowship here.

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