LONDON.- Michael Hoppen Contemporary
brings together two contemporary photographers who have documented the sartorial expressions of particular communities in the Congo and South Africa. Daniele Tamagni and Araminta de Clermont befriend their respective subjects and utilize the camera to create unique records of these communities. Tamagnis images brilliantly capture the energy and pride of the Sapeurs of the Congo. The works have a Cartier Bresson spirit with their vibrant decisive moments and energetic displays of colour. De Clermonts portraits reference the glamorous feeling of contemporary editorial images - her bright, hot daylight flash reminding one of the images filling the glossy pages of fashion and music magazines. Both styles of shooting suit their respective subject matters, bringing to us - the audience - a point from which to view the sartorial pride in these vibrant and relatively unknown circles.
Daniele Tamagni has documented the creativity of a community in the Congo, known as the Sapeurs. The Sapeurs (consisting of mostly men) adhere to a subculture of high fashion called Le Sape (Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance). Their style and attire is their identity in life. Their look seems derived from the wardrobe of a British dandy yet is very much its own evolved creation, based on a strict and detailed code of aesthetics. Socks, ties, pipes and handkerchiefs are chosen with meticulous care - many save up for years to buy the best suit and accessories they can. Le Sape is more than just a look - it is a lifestyle imbued with a deeper, more profound moral undertone and identity. The series of images Tamagni made of the Sapeurs, are wonderfully dynamic and fresh. The sense of celebration and pride Tamagni has captured amongst the Sapeurs is all the more remarkable given the background of extreme poverty and recent violent history that mars the Republic of the Congo.
Araminta De Clermont has photographed a series of portraits of young girls dressed up for their matriculation dance celebrating their graduation from school. They were shot on the Cape Flats, a vast area outlying Cape Town described by some as having been apartheids dumping ground. The Matric Dance has a huge significance for the girls in these photographs, and their families; for some it is a reward for having not dropped out of school, for others it is an opportunity to celebrate the reaching of an academic level, which the previous generations may not have had the chance to reach, and for yet more, especially in the cases of more impoverished families, it may primarily be a night of fantasy escapism, a chance to live out their dreams through costume and styling. It may even be seen as being the night of these youngsters lives, their first and possibly their last real opportunity to dress up no holds-barred, be the centre of attention, shine in a world where not much is certain, and life can be very hard.
On the Cape Flats, many families will deny their children nothing for this outfit; costs will be budgeted into household expenses up to a year in advance. An incredible amount of thought goes into what will be worn on the night. Some schools hold the dance right at the end of the school year, enabling them to insist that the school fees are settled before the dance, and threatening that it will otherwise be cancelled (at the same time ensuring that parents do not end up spending all the fees on hired limos, accessories, and so on, as they apparently often do). The resultant looks, seem to speak volumes: about the hopes, dreams, aspirations and influences of young South Africans today.