West Philly native publishes book on U.S. black barbershops, speaks of their role in his life

Self-taught photographer Antonio M. Johnson had such fond memories of the barbershop of his youth on 52nd and Market, he set out on a journey to visually document barbershops across the United States, in an effort to explore possible similarities or differences. Johnson joined FOX 29 Good Day to discuss his work and his newly published book “You Next.”

He loved the barbershop and thought it was a great place to hang out with his dad and his uncle. He described it as a sacred place. The fond memories prompted his search to find the answers to his curiosity.

“I went to about 10 different cities all around the country. I really wanted to make sure that I went to the largest cities that had a really big, black population to see if the black barbershop that I knew and loved in Philly was the same throughout the country. And, it was,” Johnson explained.

Johnson went on to describe the barbershop as a place where men congregate and talk about life and the community. He described the barbershop as a place where no topic is off-limits and men can share their thoughts, as a sort of therapy session with unlicensed therapists. By so doing, healing can occur and people can feel less alone.

Another aspect of the black barbershop is all age groups are frequently represented. “Everyone from kids to seniors, and I think that’s one of the great things, as well. You get a chance to have this inter-generational thing that happens. You get a chance to kind of see different perspectives. And, not only different age groups, different types of economic statuses. People with a lot of money, you know, people with no money. They all come in, they all convene at the barbershop to share,” Johnson remarked.

Johnson went on to say his mother’s youngest brother was a barber, splitting his time at Cheyney University and two different shops in West Philadelphia.

Johnson's book, "You Next," can be purchased anywhere books are sold.


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