Driving through Guildford last week I noticed that one of the shopping centres had posted a series of large scale posters with the tag line “What’s Your Fashion Statement?” which reminded me of Hans Eijkelboom’s ideas if not of his photos. Eijkelboom’s vast series People of the Twenty First Century (1) which I have previously reviewed (here) explored the idea that we have fooled ourselves into thinking that we can become unique through our choice of clothing. In an interview for the publisher (2) Eijkelbloom explains that he started out exploring his own identity realising that, like pretty well everyone else, he naively buys clothes as a statement of identity without thinking of the 10,000 other people who are wearing exactly the same garment. He calls this the “fallacy of modern individualism”. The very idea that the average person has a fashion statement to make is arguably a fallacy and, if they did so, would the materials be found in a provincial shopping centre housing nothing but chain fashion stores? A shopping centre that epitomises Marc Augé’s (3) idea of a non-place.
I returned this morning and photographed people passing the sign, I had to break my own rule of never using a long lens for street photography because the only vantage point was from the other side of the road.
In each of the final three selected images we might assume that the subjects have made conscious decisions about how to present themselves, nearly all of us do. The first man has a beard and long hair which presumably is a statement which I would have understood in 1970 but is now mysterious to me. The second man has dressed for the spring weather and his journey to Guildford by bicycle, perhaps a statement of his health and fitness. The final couple intrigued me, his and her’s boots, his red, her’s yellow; the boots and dog suggest they are out for a country walk in the centre of Guildford.
There is no judgemental statement about these people intended here, nor have I set out to make fun of these or any other passers by. It is a comment on a predatory and exploitative fashion industry who exploit our conceits and perpetuate the idea that we can change our persona by buying cheap disposable clothing that is often sourced by exploiting workers and destroying the environment of developing countries, a subject I have explored previously (here).
Black and White
I was tempted to complete this exercise in monochrome and only settled on colour because of the yellow and red socks in fig. 03. However the series works quite well in black and white.
(1) Eijkelboom, Hans (2014) People of the Twenty First Century. London: Phaidon
(2) Eijkelboom, Hans (2014) Ten Questions for Photographer Hans Eijkelboom (accessed at Phaidon 24.12.15) – http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/articles/2014/october/02/ten-questions-for-photographer-hans-eijkelboom/
(3) Augé, Marc (1992) Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (Translated by John Howe) (accessed at the University of Buffalo 16.2.16) – http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jread2/Auge%20Non%20places.pdf