For People of the Twenty-First Century, Netherlands-based photographer Hans Eijkelboom conducts a twenty-year-long survey the everyday fashion choices of unassuming citizens of the world’s largest metropolises, including New York, Shanghai, Paris, and of course, Amsterdam.
Eijkelboom began the project in 1993 and continued until 2013, conducting concealed photo sessions in the most crowded blocks of city streets, mostly around happening storefronts and larger shopping malls. So as not to draw attention to himself, he slung his camera about his neck and tucked its wired trigger into his pocket, releasing the shutter whenever a person of interest passed him. Within about ten minutes, he explains, he located a trend in clothing and would stay in the same area for up to two hours documenting the phenomenon. Ultimately, he arranged each of these collections into a single grid.
The photographer is inspired in part by A Rua, a poem written by João do Rio in 1905 about the joy and egalitarianism that flourished throughout the streets of Rio de Janeiro. For the poet and the artist alike, the street is a place wherein all sorts are united, where individuals become a part of a larger metropolitan atmosphere. Alone, each of Eijkelboom’s frames are unextraordinary; together, they reveal something far more significant about what unites us, both superficially and inwardly.
Eijkelboom insists that his work isn’t about the clothes but an investigation of the people who wear them. His surveillance-like captures of street fashion serve as a tribute to the human desire to define and to express our innermost self externally. In the end, we aren’t observing these people from the outside looking in; instead, we each occupy a role within the crowd, striving ever more to both fit in and also to distinguish ourselves from the rest.
People of the Twenty-First Century is published by Phaidon.
All images © Hans Eijkelboom / Phaidon
via The Guardian