Photography can be a very versatile art form. Unlike working with paint (where you would need to mix multiple colours to find a suitable shade), with photography, changing the tone or depth of a colour is as simple as clicking a button on your computer. In sculpture, if you wanted to add something extra to your piece, you would need to deliberate about the size and find a seamless way to attach it. With digital photography, you merely need to add another layer over the image on your screen and the possibilities for change are endless.
Perhaps this ease of alteration is why photography has become such a competitive creative industry over the last few decades, in comparison to more traditional forms of art. As more and more people take on this creative pursuit, the market becomes saturated, making it more difficult to stand out above the rest. Photographers need to find more creative subjects or project ideas to differentiate their work from others of a similar calibre, although this is obviously easier said than done.
One such artist to stand out from the crowd is Netherlands-based photographer Hans Eijkelboom, who has taken on several unique projects. In this book, People Of The Twenty-First Century, Eijkelboom has chronicled- from 9 November 1992 until 10 November 2013- the changing fashions and styles of the world. While this book doesn’t showcase all of his work (the project is still ongoing), it does provide a fascinating insight into the way we portray ourselves in public, and highlight the intriguing science of trends and individuality. Armed with only a camera around his neck, a shutter in his pocket and an eye for trend-spotting, Eijkelboom claims that he never looked through the lens of his camera when taking the thousands of candid shots needed for this ambitious project. Each day on the job, he would go out to a busy public spot, people-watch for a little while, and try and determine a particular trend or behaviour (although it was usually a style of clothing) that he could base his day of photography on. Taking photos from 20 minutes to approximately 4 hours each time, he would get what he needed, then formulate the taken photos into a grid-like pattern- adding it to his collection. What results is a catalogue of changing fashion, from countries all over the world, taken over two decades, and capturing ideals of both individuality and conformity.
While each individual photo is quite banal in subject manner, the images are a lot more striking when arranged as a grid with like photographs (as you can see when you look at the front cover of this book). Every page features a different theme-some are easy to spot (everyone is wearing a puffer jacket or playing with their phone), and some are a little more difficult (everyone is wearing a particular designed necklace)- but all are consistent in their formulation. In a study of individuality, it’s interesting to see how even when following a trend, people try to make the look their own by adding an accessory or changing the way that they wear the said item.
Eijkelboom has constructed several other unique photography projects (which are described and illustrated in the back of this book), and it is obvious that he is extremely dedicated to his art form. This is an unusual photography book, but it is well-worth taking a look at for some of the more unique hairstyle and fashion choices of the last twenty years.