Pieter Hugo's New Portraits Embrace Vulnerability and Frailty
In Solus at Stevenson, photographer Pieter Hugo reflects on the values that constitute the fashion industry’s shifting aesthetic through a series of straightforward portraits of street-cast models. Hugo found himself captivated by sitters with unconventional and atypical looks, particularly before they underwent fashion’s machinations of wardrobe, makeup and hair. He has written:
"If normal is symmetrical I am drawn to the asymmetrical. The rigidity of a normal gait must be stifling. Society wants to control through a dualistic status where everything is about balance and resolution. Boring! Give me limping peg-legged pirates any day – not for their difference but their uniqueness. These kids are at an age where everything changes daily. Where the world doesn’t spin fast enough. There’s an incredible beauty in the mess of youth, and there is something affirming in not being run-of-the-mill. I think everyone can relate to not fitting in, not belonging. I relate to their seeming strangeness."
Drawn to this uniqueness and recalling the sense of not-belonging that is part of the intense experience of youth, Hugo’s invitation to the models was 'Simply present yourself'. The resulting photographs embrace vulnerability and frailty as much as they do the agency and idealism of their subjects.