Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Kaitlyn Moore

Searching for Color: Skin Tone Bias in Photography 


The medium of photography has been an important tool used to visually capture people. As a society we have come to trust these images that the medium produces. However, this thesis will question the faith we have instilled in this visual tool. The questioning of this traditional art form arises from the fact that, historically, the photographic medium has generated inaccurate portrayals of non-white subjects. In many images, darker skinned subjects have been distorted, manipulated, or completely omitted. The main cause for this issue comes from the medium’s technical inability to capture the darker range of skin tones. This technical failure can be attributed to a bias towards whiteness that was embedded into the basic principals of photography’s technological design. This thesis focuses on how this bias arose historically, how it has persisted into the digital realm of present day photography, and how contemporary artists have dealt with its presence when capturing darker skinned subjects.


Sector C: Art Practice and Technology


Advisers: Gabriel Martinez (FNAR) | Chi-Ming Yang (ENGL)