The Sartorialist is one of the regular blogs I read/look at. To me Scott Schuman’s work is a real celebration of garments, objects, people and how they construct their identities. His work is astonishing. The close ups, people’s faces, the way they fill in, or not, the clothes they are wearing, their nationality, their beliefs through what they choose… And the backgrounds, of course, where they are located, where they happen to be…There is, of course, also some August Sander in his sociological approach.
Schuman started photographing around 2005, when he had left a high powered job in men’s fashions to take care of his daughter. He learned by photographing his children and afterwards, he began to record outfits worn by people on the streets who captured his imagination. Self-taught and self-reliant, just like one of my favourite film directors, Julio Medem.
And then there are the mistakes, the experiments where something happens, like the one above, where, instead of being a still portrait, it is a moving portrait, but in the same vein than vintage Sartorialist. The same elements I outlined above are relevant but with a little of the unexpected, of the more natural, or the unplanned, un-posed.
Look at the image above, though. It is a one-off moment. Where did that blue envelope come from and how come it is of the same shade than the light behind. Isn’t the lady’s dress just perfect. And the smoking hand framed by the red canopy (a red that offsets the blue)? I could look at this images forever, in the same way I can look at Francesca Woodman’s ‘On Being an Angel’, or my image of the shoe.
There is something about the frame, about the composition, about what is in the frame and what isn’t, what we can imagine, what is chosen not to be shown. I think this is what photography can capture/do than no other medium can.
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I know, I know. Where have I been? Well, on my return from the exhibition, I realised, by giving a quick glance to the calendar, that I was to get married two months and a half later. Checklist said: no dress yet, no table arrangements, no transport, no flowers, no ceremony, no vows, no legal paperwork, no rings, no hen party, only half a honeymoon (I got my priorities right!). So there you have it. I kept the PhD ticking with only its vital constants, while I sorted out the mess I had been avoiding. It all went wonderfully, though, and in the time from the exhibition until August 2nd (W-day), I managed to cross all the items on that kilometre long to-do list. The day was better than I had dreamed, one to remember. And so was my hen party in Berlin and our honeymoon in Cascais.
When I returned, on the 15th August, though, my hard drive imploded, leaving me bereft of all my work from May 3rd, the last time I backed up my files (yes I know, but read the above paragraph). If you usually read this journal, you will realise that this is somewhat before the exhibition and that I lost all the photographs from an event that will not happen again in the same way. Thankfully, the Apple store geniuses really deserve the their job titles and a chap called Ewan retrieved 80% of the lost data: the images. What was lost was the diary I wrote. I have some notes about the general structure and writing things the second time usually takes less than the first time round. In any case, it is not too bad a result for my incompetence at keeping my files safe. Now, every Sunday, my diary says: “Back files” and damn me if I ever miss the appointment again.
So you see where my time has gone. but now I am back. And full of energy and commitment to this project. At least I’ll have that once I get my head round what it was I was researching. But so you are not too upset with me for disappearing without a word, I leave you something I found out while those vital constants were ticking. Isn’t it the best abstract ever?
Malcolm Ashmore (1989)The Reflexive Thesis. Wrighting Sociology of Scientific Knowledge. London, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
With thanks to Kathy O’Doherty, for introducing me to one of the most excitingly written PhDs I have ever encountered.
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