Back in 2013, German photographer Oliver Sieber published an award-winning photobook containing a collection of portraits constituting to his own Imaginary Club. With 430 pages of photographs – most of which are portraits – his book embodies the inherent nature of the photographer as collector. “You can call it a self-portrait,” Sieber says of the project, “It’s all my personal interests and preferences put together in my personal context.”
Taken in disparate locations varying from UK to Tokyo, Helsinki to LA, and Israel to Mexico, the portraits featured focus specifically on underground youth culture across the world. Sieber photographs the marginalized, unconventional groups and misfits of society and combines these portraits with monochrome street shots similar in style to Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama. This way Sieber creates vivid juxtapositions that reflect his own unconventional take on the book’s layout.
Delving into book stores, record shops, and nightclubs worldwide, Seiber works effectively as a fisherman in the cities and places he visits, fishing for those who differ from the everyday. Incidentally his subjects are often extravagantly styled, complete with body art, accessories, and dramatic hairstyles.
When asked how he gets his subjects to agree to be photographed, Sieber explains: “Usually it’s not very complicated to ask a person to take a portrait when you meet at certain places where you share the same music taste and go to the same concerts. In my experience people liked to be photographed. I introduce myself, talk a bit about the concept behind my project, and then I ask them not to smile and not to look directly at the camera. That’s it.”
The book also features an interactive element, pushing the work further into the 21st century. The hashtag directory or so-called “Tweeted Encyclopedia” encourages people to tweet their own images beneath the suggested tags, such as #Cosplay #RolandBarthes and #HorrorPunk. The aim being to sharpen the viewer’s own observations of things around them – if you can just learn to look, you can see the extraordinary exists all around you.
A new edition of the book – including a Xerox copy of a forgotten image, some minor alterations to the layout, and the names of the supporters printed inside – will go into print if enough support is provided. You can support the campaign via Kickstarter here.
All images © Oliver Sieber