You might have heard about or seen photographer Ari Versluis and stylist Ellie Uyttenbroek’s ongoing project ‘Exactitudes’, whereby they have been snapping photos of people since 1994 in locations all over the world, focusing on people in particular ‘style tribes’.  You end up asking whether individuality actually exists because by their definition, by portraying these people in similar poses in a repetitive 3 x 4 format, they end up blurring into one monotonous image.  So called ‘sub-culture’ groups like goths, punks and emos who define themselves as ‘individual’ and ‘different’ end up allying themselves into something that makes them NOT different. 

Of course, not all their subjects are actively seeking style individuality so it therefore makes it an even more interesting take on things as Uyttenbrokek and Versluis have taken to the streets of London to identify the different ‘style tribes’.  It might seem offensive to the some that their style might be pigeonholed this way but it does end up revealing a funny truth. 

Exactsel1 Exactsel2

The existing Exactitudes photographs are now on display at Selfridges but the new works on London style will be on display to the public from the 4th April, I believe, with a new book coming out at the end of the exhibition that includes the London pieces.  Here are a few sneak pics featured in yesterday’s Guardian magazine.  I’ll be interested in seeing the full set of images to see whether they have captured London style correctly as an overview, and also to affirm my belief that style individuality can still escape this mode of categorisation.

Oriental (US say ‘Asian’) girls with their designer bags

Exactlon1

Cardi-clad, geek-chic boys

Exactlon2

Scarf-loving, short-haired emo chicks

Exactlon3   

Comments (39)

  1. Sophia says:

    I love these photos….. I was just looking at some of these today in an old issue of ID magazine from 2005!!!
    Such a simple effective idea!!

  2. poppy lee says:

    wow this is fascinating stuff.
    the use of identical poses is so powerful and really serves to highlight the way fashion is followed in such a sheep-like way. it’s almost scary.
    look forward to seeing the full set of pictures.

  3. Lauren says:

    I find this very fascinating and I agree that it seems that these ‘sub-cultured’ groups are not so different after all.
    I would love to see how the London styles turn out. This is an exhibit I will definitely follow.

  4. Rachel says:

    Such a simple idea, but so effective. The use of repetition really shows the machine like trends of our generations, great post 🙂

  5. Lauren says:

    it is actually offensive to refer to asians as “oriental” here. “oriental” is used more to describe objects, like vases and rugs. i think in the UK, “asian” means indian?

  6. Goodness. It really brings up that whole question of style and identity. It pulls at my pride to think I’m not that individual, as we all get our style references from somewhere, right? And we all live in the same world, so there are going to be many, many similarities. Phew – I have a headache just thinking about it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well for a long time its been a proven social/psychological fact that people dress to fit with the group they identify with (even if it’s the off-beat, outsider, anarchist group). There’s nothing wrong with that. We are social animals.

  8. Becky says:

    Wow. I love style tribe photos – I would very much like to be the queen of the short haired, scarf-sporting women. They would do my chores and food shopping, gather my nectar and I’d reward them each night with a screening of Donnie Darko and the latest episode of “Skins”. We’d be so happy.
    Becky.

  9. rachel says:

    that’s a really neat idea.

  10. Justin Penov says:

    I think it’s important with a comparison such as this one to remember that these individuals exist within a wider social context. While it may be easy to group them together here in terms of hair cuts or choices in accessories, and thereby show their ironic lack of individuality, you won’t ever see anything as clear-cut and cropped as this in the world at large; similarities, yes, but not this type of doppleganger portrayal.
    Take one scarf loving emo chick and put her in the mix with all the Asian (not Oriental) designer bag girls, and that’s where her individuality draws from. She may align herself with a specific subcultural group, but in doing so says no to an infinite mass of others.

  11. I like all the people together. And the geek chic look rocks on the boys…

  12. a lady says:

    that last set made me miss all the dyke bars I’ve ever been to in brooklyn.

  13. stephanie says:

    this seems to be an issue [the one of indivduality] that has been surfacing quite a bit recently, though I won’t delve into it as i’m not quite sure what to say about it.
    anyways,i love your posts, though this has been my first comment on your blog.

  14. Teresa says:

    It’s quite atounding. I would think that all these people knew each other before they were group together in a single photo. Quite bizarre, the similarities.

  15. yumiko says:

    the project sounds amazinggggg
    i always thought it annoying when people say theyre “original” or “unique”, when theyre just copying a clique in the first place,, but its always fun looking at them and identifying them,,,putting them into little groups and keeping organized hah

  16. mica says:

    Such a cool idea!
    It’s funny how you see so many people fall in love with a similar style, and it’s great to see it laid out like that. It really reinforces the “group-like” nature of people. (I don’t know how to say that in a more descriptive way sorry).
    That’s what fashion’s all about isn’t it? Finding something you like and emulating it. 🙂

  17. Tram says:

    eh, we are visual creatures first and foremost. whether we can completely agree or not, our choices in life, particularly with fashion has been influenced by things from another moment in time. the human consciousness and subconsciousness is a funny thing. so is our thinking in personal individuality, not that being the opposite (sometimes) is really all that bad neither.

  18. kim says:

    Ha, that’s hilarious! I’m loving these sets. They could do one at my office, titled ‘IT-guys’ (as in Information Technology, not “it”), which would have 30 guys in a checkered shirt and khakis.

  19. DJM says:

    I remember this project when it began and funnily enough have been looking for the original article since but couldn’t remember the artists’ names.

  20. Makes people who shop in Next look like radicals!

  21. Makes people who shop in Next look like radicals!

  22. wow! that’s very interesting and fscinating, but also funny! They all think to be different, but they aren’t really…

  23. July Stars says:

    There was an interesting interview with the photographer/stylist on the Culture Show. They explained and showed the process behind selecting people to be photographed!

  24. I-yyyyyyyyy like it!
    We do say asian here in the states, but that’s only cuz the “Asians” here require it. Back in high school I called a girl Oriental and she went into nuclear meltdown mode. If you’re from the Orient, why aren’t you called Oriental? Well Oriental or Asian, the people from the east are HOTTT

  25. Tammy says:

    I saw the show at Selfridges over the weekend. Great but the audio of ‘exactitudes’ on repeat was pretentious beyond beleif. Plus most of the pics seem to have been taken in Rotterdam.

  26. susie_bubble says:

    I’ll definitely be doing more coverage on this…
    Tammy: The new London images will be unveiled on 4th April, at Selfridges.
    Excuse the un-PC-ness of ‘Oriental’, it’s true in the UK, when we say ‘Asian’ we are referring to Bangladeshis, Indians and Pakistanis.
    Ideally, I should say Japanese/Korean/Chinese but then the girls in the image could be say…Taiwanese and some feel irked being called Chinese (as in the nationality not the ethnicity…). Plus, it’s not so snappy…
    Justin Penov: You make a very valid point that these photos are quite an extreme view and out of context in reality, these people would stand out more.

  27. Duh. What would they look like if they were somehow truly individual? Can you even imagine it?
    Colors fall into groups.
    Flowers do.
    And birds.
    Everything that has variety has tendencies and patters.
    Duh.
    Duh.
    Duh.

  28. Giselle says:

    thats a little bit frightening to me :-/
    I like to think that I’v “de-categorized” myself. at least I hope.
    <3<3<3

  29. octopus says:

    Oriental is soooo racist. Its like saying the “N” word. Only rednecks say that horrible word..

  30. Sprigged says:

    The word is just a cultural difference. It is not racist in the UK.

  31. Alexander says:

    my wonderful editor in chief penny martin did a feature on this in this week’s ‘culture show’ on bbc2. I think it was on on ssatruday (but I had my nose to the grindstone at my other 9-to-5 so missed it. boohiss).
    love,
    Alex.

  32. Thom Wong says:

    That anyone still says “Oriental” blows my mind, but those pictures are a great idea.

  33. susie_bubble says:

    Um…. not to point out the obvious… but I AM Chinese…. and I don’t really mind being called ‘Oriental’…. in the UK, it isn’t considered rascist/offensive. To be honest, most people take the care to ask whether I’m Chinese/Japanese/Korean anyway so people actually get the ethnicity right…
    If someone called me Asian, I’d be perplexed/confused to be honest…. different countries, different speak… geddit?

  34. aha says:

    oriental is an incorrect classification. the orient technically covers everything middle east (turkey) onwards till the eastern edge of asia. india, afghanistan, etc. are also considered part of the orient.
    more specific would be east/west/south asian/middle-eastern and so on.

  35. Alice says:

    “We do say asian here in the states, but that’s only cuz the “Asians” here require it. Back in high school I called a girl Oriental and she went into nuclear meltdown mode. If you’re from the Orient, why aren’t you called Oriental? Well Oriental or Asian, the people from the east are HOTTT”
    * “The Orient” is a Western/Occidental construction of what is “foreign” and “alien” to Europe (which historically elevates itself to grace the pinnacle of cultural and intellectual proliferation.) Basically, the roots of construction of “The Orient” and hence, “the Oriental” was a means to Other those east of Europe so that it’d be easier to dehumanize and de-civilize from an anthropological perspective.
    * In the late 60s into the 70s a lot of Asian Americans, weary of being perceived as foreign, Other, un-American, and constantly being defined by the racist stereotypes projected by the media (World of Susie Wong, Fu Manchu) were motivated by a desire to empower themselves and name themselves as a group.
    *”Well Oriental or Asian, the people from the east are HOTTT” — no, buddy, that would not be an empowering comment. It’s reductive and offensive in the way that racialized parts of ourselves are desired. Why desire being desired for the “exotic” slant of our eyes, the yellow or brown in our skin? So we’re only valuable for how “foreign” or “exotic” we appear, by our “craaaazy” fashion sense? You see what I’m getting at? Who has the power in this relationship? Just something to think about.
    * And please, please do no say, “Well, I have a Chinese friend who doesn’t mind Oriental” or worse “I’m Japanese and I love being called Oriental.” Not everybody identifies the same, even within the Yellow/Brown community. For example, yes, I’m API/Asian American, and yes, I reject the term “Oriental” — at the same time I recognize that I don’t stand in for ALLL Asian America and neither should you use your ONE Chinese friend stand in for allll “Orientals.” Please don’t pull out your token Yellow friend to justify your racism or discount why some people might be offended by your comments.

  36. candid cool says:

    it’s like the saying: you’re unique, just like everybody else.

  37. a reader of my retail recovery blog tipped me off to this post yesterday because it seemed related to my own post. i just found the exactitudes web site and that is just such a fantastic project. wow.

  38. Trisch says:

    man
    if you said oriental in canada
    people would be curbstomping you.
    haha

  39. oriental is an incorrect classification. the orient technically covers everything middle east (turkey) onwards till the eastern edge of asia. india, afghanistan, etc. are also considered part of the orient.

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