When he was growing up, Antonio Johnson always felt safe and confident in a barbershop, be it the one owned by his uncle or at Mr. Leon’s in Southwest Philadelphia, where his father got haircuts for all the major milestones in his life.

Johnson would learn things about his dad — like how he’s been a neighborhood basketball legend: “Better than Magic!” claimed one customer — from the other men in the barbershop.

These were more than just places to get a trim, Johnson realized.

“[Barbershops] are where black men can speak freely and receive feedback about who we are, who we want to be, and what we believe to be true about the world around us,” he writes in “You Next: Reflections in Black Barber Shops” (Chicago Review Press), out now.

In 2018, Johnson took a road trip to photograph black barbershops around the country, from Gary, Ind., to New York City to Los Angeles, Detroit and New Orleans.

“There’s something about a fresh haircut that can change a black man’s outlook on the world,” he writes.

The book combines photos of the places, barbers and customers (inset right) with essays from black writers.

“Barbers tend to look like the boys they serve and they are often thought of as a member of the family,” writes Alvin Irby.

They’re also an important neighborhood business in a population where access to capital is not common.

“Corporate executives cannot outsource a hairline. Tech bros have not figured out how to automate a high-top,” writes Aaron Ross Coleman. “Until they do, the role of the master barber and the business of the barbershop will persist as an exceptionally accessible path to entrepreneurship to everyday black folks.”

An essay by Julian Kimble celebrates conversation: “Barbershop talk is unfiltered and, alas, often fueled by barbershop logic. And barbershop logic is frustrating because even though you know it’s rooted in nonsense, it’s still polarizing enough to reel you in.”

Photos from “You Next” are exhibited at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the Delta Departure Atrium through Sept. 15 as part of the Airport Art Program.

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