At the Pitti 96 I was a victim. At least that’s what Mr. Clements called those fortunate souls that were invited to take part in his photo session inside the ancient walls of the Fortezza da Basso in Florence. I’d like to share some hopefully useful insights in the short lifespan of a victim in the above sense:
The following steps form the basic requirements of performing as a model for an experienced and professional photographer: taking up position in front of a wall to create the necessary contrast in light and colors, then, when the photographer asks you to move, you shall perform a controlled move of a tiny fraction of muscle at a time, caveats include the complete change of your posture. All this was, to say the least, unknown territory for me.
At the end, when he showed me some of the pictures he took, I thought: I wanna be that guy on the photograph. It was a very unique, uncomfortable, uncontrollable moment. I knew, it was me in the pictures, but he caught something I wasn’t yet aware of.
It was like an epiphany; I recognized, that’s what a photographer creates, when he looks at you, at anybody, at anything. He freezes time. And I was a victim, a victim of this process of exposing and capturing, at the end I was a victim of the gaze.
Crisscrossing through the huge Areal the trade show is situated in, i caught the opportunity and visited friends, shared thoughts about the intricate process involved in creating, from the idea to the finished garments, talked about the void inside the fashion industries, the loss of the connection to aesthetic positions, art and music; but what most prominently caught my attention this time again, was the symbiosis between two types of visitors: the nearly invisible crowd of ubiquitous photographers and the opulently visible groups of style performers.
The obvious interdependency between these two subjects and the gaze from the casually passerby form the triangle of contemporary consumer culture and economic powers every trade show is centered around.
Although it is my belief that scientific research should be done by those who already wrote about these constellations, I would like to offer a somewhat unscientific experimental setting: what if we were the famous fly on the wall watching these three interrelated performers moving through time and space, playing their shared stage in slow motion? Please allow me to formulate three theoretical scenarios that we, as the fly, would assist to.
The style performer, to begin with, assumes positions he studied, he already knows, this way they will detail some desired proportions of his body silhouette and his clothing for a) the photographer and b) the passerby i.e. future consumer. He is confident, that his narcissistic explorations from the past will produce the desired effects.
The photographing subject/s either a) aim to reproduce an already formed ideal image guiding the performer through different performance stages until the results resemble in near perfection his expectations, or b) tries to make the best out from the self conscious presentations the performer has to offer. That’s what most of the professional photographers seem to be exposed to or endure at the trade show, if we compare the huge amount of photographs taken to the ones published in the immediate aftermath through online platforms and media.
The casually passerby are the actual traders, the buyers, the salesperson, those whose gaze in the end is decisive when it comes to persuade their customer in buying themselves into a personal style. Nearly all of them try to stop and watch the performer and the photographer. In this act there are already present the defining elements of the gaze: the desire (yet unfulfilled), the expectancy (to oneself and to the future customer, especially in regard to body consciousness).
In the short timespan in front of the unforgiving lens only few casually passerby stopped for a moment to secure themselves if my performance was worth their gaze. Obviously i performed definitely within a different setting and on different prerequisites compared to those who perform twice a year at the (in)famous wall, but then, I think that makes this experience so special for me and my rendition so unique, i.e. not useful for the fashion industries.