WEEK 3: SUPERVISOR SESSION (W/ SHANE)
Our choice of clothes contributes highly to how people perceive us. The style and choice of clothes we wear, show part of our personality. Are you business driven? Or a punk? Do you wear girly pink or serious navy blue?
This is a conversation I regularly engage in. Even people who do not care about their styling will convey a message with their clothes, possibly stating exactly that. It is not possible to not communicate. This does not mean we are living in a superficial world, but humans notice many small details about a person, clothes being one of them. What style do the clothes have? Is the fashion en vogue? What are the materials? Are they new and well taken care of? Which colors does a person choose? And so on. Yet, most of us go mainstream clothes shopping: H&M, Zara etc. align fashion in most parts of the world, changing their collection every week. But what if the clothes people wear actually represent them individually? An aspect of their personality or a part of their life?
W H A T
In this photo project, the connection of the clothes and the person wearing them is taken to the extreme: Fashion-photography-style pictures of several people wearing individual, personalized clothes. These garments are made out of fabrics that have a picture or a collage of the person or a meaningful detail of their life printed onto them.
As in other projects before, I work with several layers in a picture, hiding and revealing details of a person and their personality: the person in a photograph (with an intentionally, individually chosen location, lighting and mood), wearing clothes that show – again in a photographic way – part of their life or personality.
In a project that focuses on personality and individuality, it is not possible to work with anonym models. The people I will portrait are friends of mine, all with very different stories to tell. I am intending to show the person’s personality that will be colored through my perspective.
W H Y
This multi-layered project reflects on individuality and the psychology of projection (How can a person with multiple facets of a personality be represented in a photograph? Is it rather a picture the photographer paints of the person than an actual representation of their personality?).
On another layer, it denounces environmentally harmful fast-fashion and the big players of the fashion industry, that dictate fashion in most parts of the world. Instead, it opens the conversation to the other extreme: highly individual, unique clothing, that only the one person can wear with the intended meaning.
W H O
The project is situated in the triangle of art, fashion and portrait photography.
High end fashion photographers do not simply focus on fashion photography but are artists that have been recognized for their creative integrity by the fashion industry. Viviane Sassen is an example for this and an artist, I have been observing for years. It is clear to see how her artwork feeds into her fashion photography:
“Viviane Sassen’s spontaneous, non-commercial, and characteristically individual approach has ensured that her fashion photography goes far beyond the usual confines of this medium. The fashion domain affords her the space to carry out experiments that generate a reservoir of material with which to develop the language of her independent work. The exhibition also furnishes convincing proof that Sassen is developing a visual vocabulary for the fashion photography of the future.” https://www.lensculture.com/articles/viviane-sassen-in-and-out-of-fashion
The Berlin fashion label Hien Le works with different photographers (e.g. Ian Kenneth Bird) and intentionally gives them the freedom of their photography style. As stated on their company’s website
“The Hien Le Interpreted / Archive project aims at creating a conversation between the aesthetics of the brand and the visual language of photographers, filmmakers or artists we admire.”
This results in unique, progressive fashion photography, that rather provokes a feeling and brand image than actually properly showing their clothes.
Jessica Dettinger and her fashion label Form of Interest is inspirational in terms concept of fashion, social impact and androgyny (size and shapes).
“The name of the label is based to see fashion as a medium to discuss questions of our society and to deconstruct old role models or ways of thinking. It is more than clothes – especially in times of fast fashion – designers should emphasize their new thinking of a sustainable slow fashion. Sustainable not only means using fair fabrics and fair ways of production. Every item is only available in a small series to bring back the moment of an “Unikat”.” http://formofinterest.com/about/
I am curious about perception of style and the use of photographs on textile. Making the clothes for this project and not using prefabricated garments is a logical consequence of showing highly individualized, unique clothes on the people. But I am not a fashion designer or tailor and do not plan to be one. Therefore, I have to be realistic about the fashion I am able to produce. Oversized, mostly androgyne and a simple cut will ensure enough surface for the printed photographs and manageable to produce.
Historically, this project follows the idea of the “Gesamtkunstwerk”. In the time of Jugendstil and Art Nouveau, artists had the holistic approach of designing architecture, fashion, art and industrial design together. Not solely for aesthetic/visual reasons but mainly to follow a holistic concept, I will create fashion and photography for this project.
Fashion as Photograph. Especially focusing on the chapter …
Psychology of the Image. Especially focusing on the chapter about Self-image and social identity.
H O W
This project follows several steps:
- Interviewing the people that will later wear the clothes and be photographed in a fasion-photography-style.
- Taking pictures that will either show them or represent them or an aspect of their life.
- Printing these on fabric.
- Sewing clothes out of the fabric (one set per person).
- Taking photographs of the person wearing the clothes.
And ideally doing this 3-4 times with different people.
I am aware that it is a big project where potentially a lot can go wrong. Therefore, it is important to prioritize and have a plan B if one of the steps does not go as planned.
Starting out with a test run, to see how the production works and where alterations in the process or methodology have to be made. This will also show what kind of photographs on textiles work best, how the prints and clothes are produced and if I will need help with this part of the process. At this point I am in contact with The Hemp Superstore (thehempsuperstore.com.au) that might be able to provide support in this matter. A test run also has the effect of getting the conventional images “out of the system”. Which will give me later more freedom and ambition to more progressive shots.
Even though clothes production is new to me, it is not my focus. Working with the clothes and the models, deciding on the right location and mood for the photographs is the priority and the main part of my theoretical research.
In case the test run suggests this, I will spread this project over the next two semesters. In that case, I will focus on the photo prints and clothes in this semester, with an exhibit of the clothes at the end. And the fashion shoots in the next semester.
General conversation about fashion photography:
Quick critique of the relationship between the fashion sector and the commercialization of imagery (incl. ethical dimension) > looking at the constructed side of this.
Conclusion: Instead of photographing fashion, photographing stories and narratives.
Narratives are designed to exist beyond the frame > employ different visual/cultural/creative devices to figure out how to use photography to tell these stories. Make the story not about a character, not about a protagonist but rather about a cultural reflection/critique (similar to last year but more focused on trying to present a narrative).
Looking at the proposal:
What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to be part of a group? > These questions drive people's consumption (advertising works with that: convincing people that they want to be part of the that group and what they need buy to be part of it).
Watch: ABC iView The Gruen Transfer
Can I have someone else do the clothes part of the project? Exclude the non-photographic parts? > In contact with the Hemp Superstore but don't know how realistic it is to work with them.
How critical is it that the people that wear the fashion are friends? > The idea came out of the situation that I can easier ask friends to help me with this project than strangers. But then turning it into an advantage. This adds to the story, more depth than just clothes.
Things will probably work out a long the way: there is too much planning (loosely is better – milestones). Just start to get a visual connection to the project.
Probably a good idea to spread it out over the whole year.
Mini-assignment (practice lead research):
Connecting window displays into the streets / into the culture of their belonging (like the first picture) > to tell a more profound kind of story. Story has to be more complex. Pointing out the importance of light: if it's not right, then come again another time.
Get a sense of how to start visualizing some of these narratives/conflicts. How to see them photographically. Start there and then progress along getting more ambitious.