The Brighton photographer Joseph Ford could have easily spent a couple of hours on Photoshop and made a series of pictures with people camouflaged into their surroundings, but he’s never been one to choose the easy route. “My agent sometimes suggests that maybe I could try doing something simple, but somehow it never quite pans out,” the artist admits. Instead, he commissioned Nina Dodd, a friend and knitting whiz, to create a set of sweaters designed to blend into various public spaces. After street casting the perfect models, he aligned them exactly with their surrounds, stood at exactly the right spot, and took his shot.
The first picture in the series was the one with the man in the red sweater on the bus (Dodd loves buses, Ford tells me). From there, the project expanded to include the likes of the street artist Monsieur Chat, the identical twins Monette and Mady Malroux, a dog named Venus, and more. The three toughest photographs involved the twins, the woman on the track, and Monsieur Chat, who painted one of his signature graffiti cats especially for the occasion. “One of the biggest challenges for me was calculating in advance how the lines would match up,” the photographer confesses. With the smaller patterns, it was easier to hide imperfections, but those three left no room for error. He continues, “Getting exactly the right shade of yarn was also difficult, and we even had to match the texture of the yarn as closely as possible to the texture of the backgrounds, getting a shinier heavy cotton mix for the running track and a flatter matte finish for the yellow cat sweater.”
Still, Ford wouldn’t have changed any of it. “I relish challenges,” he says. And working with the various models was an experience he wouldn’t trade. The twins surprised him the most. “The sisters have lived together all their lives,” he explains. They dress identically and do absolutely everything together. They complete each other’s sentences and always speak of ‘we’ and ‘us’. When they shop, they buy two of everything. Their movements are synchronized: one will reach for something on a table, and the other will do the same. As Mady and Monette were dressing, they acted as their own mirrors. Monette tried on her sweater, while Mady admired the effect. As they put on their tulle tutus one of them commented, “We love them.” No need to ask her sister; she already knew that they would both feel the same way.”
Ultimately, the countless hours spent knitting, planning, and photographing are what make Knitted Camouflage so special. These artists have gone about and beyond for the sole purpose of delighting our eyes and toying with our brains, and in an age of automation and instant gratification, that’s something to be treasured. When asked what’s next, Ford says he hopes to work on a music video with OK Go: “Their obsession with crazy challenges is right up my street.”
All images © Joseph Ford