Traipsing the globe, Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek have put together a fascinating dissection of street life in their book, Exactitudes.
Their approach is to collate the dress codes of different social and cultural groups. Subjects are approached on the street and asked to come back to the studio the next day wearing precisely the same outfit. Sometimes a makeshift studio is erected so the photographs can be taken more immediately.
Each page of the book is divided into twelve even frames containing one image of a subject. Underscoring the fashion is a likeness of pose and expression that serves to dramatize the connection between the selected subjects.
What’s most fascinating is that the results do not represent a loss for individualism. Even when the subjects seem initially impossible to tell apart, there is always something, a glimmer or a small detail that draws the eye to one over another.
“Individualism is more then just the language people speak with their clothes,” says Versluis. “Even when you conform to a group ideal style of clothing, it doesn't mean that you conform in the mind.”
Perhaps it is these differences of mind that in the end distinguishes these otherwise almost identical subjects from one another, and what end up resonating so strongly.
Versluis says that of all his subjects it is the very young and the very old that share more similarities and are harder to differentiate. The language, the attitude, the outlook.
He also promises that they have never cheated. They have never styled a subject to make him or meet the brief.
“Sometimes people turn up for the photo shoot and they have misunderstood,” he says. “They have changed something so we ask them to come back again wearing exactly what they were wearing when we first saw them.”
Exactitudes is about fashion, cultural codes, identity, but also life. Since starting the project Versluis says he notices changes on the street. Globalization, the stronger foothold youth culture has over people who might no longer be youths. “Access to fashion has changed,” he says. “People buy on the Internet, shop for their identities on the Internet. I see scenes from Oslo to Madrid that are the same.”
He also notices - particularly amongst youth groups - more multiculturalism. “In hip hop culture you see white, black and everything in-between these days,” he says.
Then there are the thirty something yupsters who never grew up and who are wearing the same clothes as their kids and the same clothes that they themselves wore as kids.
And as to himself? Which category can Versluis’ own look be tucked into?
“That is a very unoriginal question,” he says with a hint of irony.
“None of our subjects want to be proved to be unindividual,” he says. “Often after they see the work though they say ‘Oh yea. I didn’t see it like that before, but you have a point." And it is not even that we are trying to label people, but everyone is a part of something and we just like to document that.”
Versluis and Uyttenbroek are working on a “Making Of” book that will have anthropologists, architects, fashion designers and historians interpreting their work.
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