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Cihan Öncü

The Turkish photographer shoots people having their hair washed

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Having your hair washed at the salon is one of those great moments in life. For his project ASMR, Turkish photographer Cihan Öncü decided to capture people just as the shampoo and conditioner gets massaged into their scalps, catching their animated expressions as they temporarily float away from their worries.

“When the pandemic first started, everyone around me was really stressed, so I was thinking about the moments in life when people feel most relaxed. I remembered that when I got my hair washed at the salon, it was so calming that I almost felt like a baby. The idea was to shoot different people in this position and hopefully, in turn, to feel relaxed myself.

One of my friends has a hair salon, so I asked him if I could come by and take some photos. I spent seven months visiting the salon, meeting people and taking their portraits. They were confused about the camera at first, but I asked them to pretend I wasn’t there and to just enjoy the moment. I photographed loads of different characters, each with their own reactions and expressions.

While shooting the project, I found out that there are already a lot of popular ASMR videos of people getting their hair washed, and it didn’t surprise me at all. Getting a head massage releases a circuitry throughout the body that puts the person into this relaxed and mindful moment of contemplation. The facial expressions are so interesting, and they’re quite closely related to the ASMR trend. People just don’t think about anything in that moment. They’re at their most innocent, sincere and comfortable. Beforehand, I would try to talk to them but they were nervous and didn’t want to open up about their life. Afterward, though, I asked the same questions, and they would have a lot more to say.”

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When I get my hair washed at the salon, it’s so calming I almost feel like a baby.
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I asked them to pretend the camera wasn’t there and to just enjoy the moment.