A series of surprisingly diaphanous and intimate portraits, Albus is an ongoing collaborative project by photographer Justin Dingwall and Thando Hopa, an albino lawyer and model from Soweto. Hopa looks childlike and fragile in the photos, posing sometimes as a bright angel, sometimes as a humble Virgin Mary figure, and always exuding in an aura of immaculate feminine grace. Dingwall portrays albinism in a striking manner, in sharp contrast with conventional notions of beauty.
Caused by a lack of melanin – responsible for hair, eye and skin colour – albinism can affect people of any skin colour. “I am a black girl who lives in the skin of a white person” states Hopa, “and that alone should embody what a human being as a whole should represent.” Dingwall’s pictures allow the viewers to rethink their own attitudes towards beauty; the photographer advocates that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colours. With Albus, Dingwall also seeks to inspire a public debate on the taboo subject of albinism, as albinos are frequently discriminated and subject to superstition and violence throughout Africa. In many areas of the continent, magical powers are attributed to them; some are even killed, their body parts much sought after.