Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fashion Fabrics

Tumblr blog / Flickr set / 8tracks playlist / YouTube video playlist
Annie Lennox, a formative style icon
my photo, from Flickr & Tumblr

I took a series of photos that became a photo essay with several narratives. I posted these photos and accompanying interviews to a Tumblr blog and Flickr set. I took pictures of people, mostly women, in their ideal image of their self presentation. For my first subject, Rachel, I borrowed my mother’s camera, a Sony DSC-HX. I shot the rest of the photos with a Nikon Coolpix P520 I bought last month for my birthday. My subjects did not significantly alter their appearance: this is mostly a sartorial experiment. All of these people are people I know: they were not plucked at random off the street. Hence, this is not really a street photography project, although some photos were taken on the street. I planned to take all the photos on the street but because the weather was increasingly getting colder, this prospect became unrealistic. Unexpectedly, there was quite a lot of food in the photographs. Perhaps this is an indication of the intimacy of the portraits.
The next portion of the project was a brief interview about what their outfit, makeup, jewelry, etc. means to them. Most importantly, I asked them why they might feel uncomfortable appearing as their ideal self in public. It seems that not all of my subjects completely understood this question. Several have expressed their confusion at this idea: one not knowing what her ideal self would be and another unsure why she should be uncomfortable. This question, as with the entire project, was essentially a projection of my own issues with self presentation.
The range of variance was immeasurable. It is safe to say that this experiment was inconclusive for any clear cut results. It was very interesting to learn about the different perspectives of self presentation. Ultimately, every subject had a unique view of their body, sartorial choices, and level of comfort about how they are viewed by others. The general consensus was that one’s style is not the most important aspect of one’s identity but a good reflection of parts of it. It is evident that female-bodied individuals express more self-conscious sentiments. While this isn’t news, the reasons and explanations each individual offers are insightful and may be a source of resonance and representation for other people.
I needed to practice my photography, specifically posed photographs of people. Hopefully this project develops into a habit—one of constantly practicing and not neglecting the things I am passionate about. While I struggle with ambition (though I am at times goal-oriented), I have discovered that I am ambitious about my own self presentation.
I also put together a playlist (on 8tracks and YouTube, the latter of music videos, performances, fan made videos, etc.). I got a bit carried away and it’s very long – I needed something to listen to while I sorted through, edited, sent photos to people, and formatted various platforms. I recommend listening to it while viewing the photos!  
A video of clips from the 1939 film The Women set to Suicide's "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne"

Baur, Gabrielle, dir. Venus Boyz. Prod. Kurt Maeder, and Nina Froriep. First Run Features, 2002. Film. 19 Oct 2013.
Empire, Kitty. "Janelle Monáe: why she made the headlines in 2010." Guardian. (2010): Web. 19 Oct. 2013. <>.
Kennison, Rebecca. "Clothes Make the (Wo)man: Marlene Dietrich and "Double Drag"." Journal of lesbian Studies. 6.2 (2002): 147-156. Web. 9 Nov. 2013. <>.
Lovenheim, Barbara. "Katharine Hepburn: Rebel Chic ." Huffington Post. 12 Oct 2012: n. page. Web. 9 Nov. 2013. <>.
Shyer, Allie. "Fat Queer Tells All: On Fatness and Gender Flatness." Autostraddle. (2013): Web. 19 Oct. 2013. <>.
Wade, Lisa. "Dressing Ourselves: Gendered Versus Unisex Pants." Sociological Images. (2009): Web. 26 Oct. 2013. <>.
Wade, Lisa. "Sexy Femininity and Gender Inequality." Sociological Images. (2011): Web. 19 Oct. 2013. <>.

Braukämper, Tania. "Feminised masculinity: street style." N.p., 25 Jul 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2013. <>.
Bush, Richard. Trip Hop. from Vogue Russia. 2012. Photographs. Web. 19 Oct 2013. <>.
Greif, Alex. "Final Project: "Past Patriarchy" Women and Media SP2012. Blogspot, 12 May 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2013. <>.
Layne, Coco. Warpaint. 2013. Photograph. Lolita Bandita on Blogger. Web. 9 Nov 2013. <>.
Shumway, Brian. True Men. Photographs. Web. 19 Oct 2013. <>.
Simpson, Lorna. "Selected Photographic Works." Salon 94. Web. 19 Oct 2013. <>.
Weems, Carrie Mae. "Bodies of Work." Web. 19 Oct 2013. <>.

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca, I have to say out of all the projects, yours really resonated with me the most. It was so unconventional and out there (which I LOVED). I think looking at how people want to be seen by others and the way they present themselves is extremely interesting. Especially now when we are more harshly than ever judged on our outward appearance to others. This actually reminds me a lot of the play, No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre. Not to bore you but it's a play in which hell is other people because of the power they have in looking and reaffirming each other's existence (if that makes any sense). Honestly, I think we worry too much how others perceive us. We are worrying so much about how we present ourselves to the outside world that the outside world (and those doing the looking) starts to define us more than we define ourselves. In this sense, your project and especially what the different subjects say about their appearance, how much they care how others view them, etc. is crucial to this message. It's an interesting concept to wrap your head around. Why do we care so much how we are viewed by others to the point that we let them define us?