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Photographs of people in casual and professional clothing on view at the German Hygiene Museum Dresden
Gerhard Ludwig Müller. Bishop, Germany.
DRESDEN.- In her new project, the photographer Herlinde Koelbl has made portraits of seventy people in Germany and abroad. Each person appears twice: once in their professional or occupational costume, and once in their preferred leisure clothes. The juxtaposition sounds simple, but the exhibition reveals a surprising variety of results. Do both portraits show us the same person? What clothes present the wearer in a social role, and what clothes express an individual personality?

Herlinde Koelbl’s new photographic exhibition examines with empathy and yet analytically, with frankness and yet with persistence, how a uniform, in the broad sense of the word, changes the person wearing it. How do clothes affect the wearer’s self-image, posture, and behaviour? Does a uniform command more recognition, respect, and self-assurance? How does dressing the same affect the behaviour of people in groups? Does it make them more willing to accept hierarchies and take orders? How important is professional clothing to individuals? How does it affect relations between the wearer and the observer?

The people portrayed in the exhibition include members of professions that are strongly associated with specific clothing, such as military officers, clerics, and hotel staff, for example. Other occupations are also represented, however: an airline pilot, an astronaut, a butcher, a carpenter, a chimney-sweep, a clown, a cook, a diplomat, a dominatrix, a high court judge, a jockey, a miner, a pallbearer, a police constable, a saleswoman, and many more.

The categories in which we perceive other people are the compass by which we navigate our social world. Sometimes they point us in the right direction, and sometimes, as we may learn in this exhibition, they lead us astray.

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