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North & South

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"The artist began to examine some of the stylistic devices used by populist celebrity magazines. In recent years these publications have created a unique genre in which celebrities are scrutinised by an almost forensic examination, usually without the subject's consent and often even without their knowledge. The images present themselves as apparently intimate portraits or portrayals, but they are often achieved as a result of deception or concealment. the resulting pictures which are usually poor quality because of the manner in which they are acquired, are marked by the aesthetic characteristics of surveillance, the invasion of privacy, and the use of deception and the telephoto lens. 

Anyan adopted a similar approach to record her own images or ordinary people throughout England. The purpose of gathering such images was to examine whether, in a homogenised world where every high street in the country is filled with the same national (and even global) chain strores, there remains a sense of regional difference, or even idiosyncrasy. If everyone buys clothes from the same shops and reads the same magazines, then what is the scope for regional variation?"  Stephen Foster (2007)

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North and South provided an opportunity to explore the connection between dressing and Englishness, I was particularly interested in regional difference and used the commission from the John Hansard Gallery to travel to various towns, cities and villages in the UK to try to understand whether there was an essence of 'Englishness' in dressing that I could identify and secondly whether there was evidence of regional difference in the way that the people I encountered in public spaces dressed.  This work combined a range of methods in a way that was playful and subjective.  I photographed people in the street paparazzi style, selecting them based on my own curiosity and interest in their presentation of self. Some I photographed because I considered them stylish, some typifying something that I considered archetypally English, some because there was an element of their self-presentation that was interesting to me, an unusual combination of clothing or a mode of self-presentation that in some way surprised me. I did not have prescribed criteria, I did not look to confirm or otherwise ideas about dressing within a particular place, but I was acutely aware that I selected my subjects through my own lens, informed by my upbringing, my education, my work within the fashion industry. In parallel to the street photography, using a high-quality digital camera with a long zoom lens,  I continued also to undertake work with my camera phone. In contrast to the 'paparazzi' style photographs that I often took from a good distance from the subject the mobile phone photographs were taken at close range, they were intimate and accompanied by my intimate descriptions of the dress of the people I was photographing and what I thought about them. This method built upon the way I worked throughout the Eroding the Otherness project. In addition to the photographic works, I installed two museological display cases of pieces of clothing, footwear and fashion accessories that for me provided a snapshot of English dress and some of the contrasts and complexities in its social and cultural signifiers. 

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North & South Catalogue edited by Robert Blackson is available from Abe books and amazon

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