Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Self/Unself

Posted in art, awareness, perception, photography by Jason Gray on June 7, 2013

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The proposition of identity in the 21st century is a complicated thing indeed. Our ability to control and alter the public perception of ourselves is extremely acute given social media’s dominance over visual and ideological communication. The desire for uniqueness is greater than it ever has been, and spills out in the development of our persona through our strict control over what others see and how they interact with us. Clothing is an important facet of this.

What we choose to wear each morning reflects our points of view (on politics, culture, etc.), and so the decision of what to wear becomes an extension of the brand that we are cultivating mostly through our presences online. In most Westerners’ minds, life is an imitation of an ideal, and so clothing becomes a standard bearer of this construction. However, for a substantial portion of the global community, the decision of what to wear is determined by their access to the castaway trends of post-industrial societies. For these people, clothing, as a personal language, does not exist (or exits less significantly). They are simply reliant upon what is provided. In this case, clothing is reverted back to its simple, utilitarian context as a barrier against the elements.

For the Self/Unself project, I have photographed volunteers in various states of undress. Each work is a grid comprised of nine images, documenting each person’s transition from clothing that they have selected for themselves to clothing provided for them (obtained through Mers Goodwill in St. Louis). The process illustrates several comparisons, the comparison between the self (as we identify with it) and the self taken away, the comparison of a person to another person (in various states of dress/undress), and then begs the question, “Are we really as unique as we think we are?”


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  1. […] am currently looking for people to pose for my new series, Self/Unself. Each resulting image is a composite consisting of nine photos that attempt to alter a […]


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