Brain Pickings

Exactitudes: Cross-Cultural Photo-Anthropology Explores the Myth of Unique Identity

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Why we aren’t nearly as unique as we think, or what twelve Japanese school children have to do with twelve homeless people in Rotterdam.

Since 1994, Dutch photographer Ari Versluis and anthropologist Ellie Uyttenbroek have been trekking the globe together, recording “exactitudes” (public library) — “exact attitudes” captured in people’s peculiar dress code as an attempt to differentiate themselves from others or identify with a group. The decades-long project is now condensed in the glorious coffee table Exactitudes, which features a selection of 60 hand-curated exactitudes. The project is a deliberate collage of contradictions — between individuality and conformity, between street style and studio setting, between self and group — that serve as invitations to question our cultural givens and our identity as unique personas.

Each “exactitude” consists of twelve distinct portraits structured in a grid. Think of it as street fashion meets cultural anthropology meets data visualization — a visceral exploration of subcultures, group identity and individualism.

French Touch - Bordeaux 2006

Pin-ups - London 2008

Backpackers - Rotterdam 2008

The series is also an ethnographic and temporal portrait of our collectively individual identity across time and space — the big bags of 2008, New York’s yupster girls, the tracksuits of Japanese schoolkids, the soccer jersey fetish of European teenage boys, even “street style” at its rawest in the face of the homeless.

Gabberbitches - Rotterdam 1996

Miss Shapes - London 2008

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