Daniele Tamagni and Araminta de Clermont
07.05.10 - 05.06.10
Michael Hoppen Contemporary is pleased to bring together two contemporary photographers who have documented the sartorial expressions of particular communities in the Congo and South Africa. Daniele Tamagni and Araminta de Clermont befriend their respective subjects and utilize the camera to create unique records of their chosen circles. Tamagni’s images brilliantly capture the energy and pride of ‘Les Sapeurs’ of Brazzaville in Congo. The works are highly spirited, with bold displays of colour and perfectly framed decisive moments. Tamagni’s animated compositions wonderfully reflect Henri Cartier-Bresson’s notion that the talent of a photographer is in instinctively capturing the one fraction of a second when everything in the frame falls into place. In contrast to this, De Clermont’s portraits reference the glamorous feeling of contemporary editorial images - her bright, hot daylight flash and posed subjects remind one of the images filling the glossy pages of fashion and music magazines. This is a deliberate attempt by De Clermont to create the glitziest portraits possible of her young subjects. Both styles of shooting suit their respective subject matters, bringing to us - the audience – an eloquent point from which to view the sartorial pride in these vibrant and relatively unknown communities.
Daniele Tamagni has documented the creativity of a community in the Congo, known as Les Sapeurs. Les Sapeurs (consisting of mostly men) adhere to a subculture of highly tailored fashion called Le Sape (Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance). Their style and attire is their identity in life. Their look seems derived from the wardrobe of a British dandy yet is very much its own evolved creation, based on a strict and detailed code of aesthetics. Socks, ties, pipes and handkerchiefs are chosen with meticulous care - many save up for years to buy the best suit and accessories they can. Le Sape is more than just a look - it is a lifestyle imbued with a deeper, more profound moral undertone and identity. The series of images Tamagni made of Les Sapeurs, are wonderfully dynamic and fresh. The sense of celebration and dignity Tamagni has captured amongst Les Sapeurs is all the more remarkable given the background of poverty and political instability that is the backdrop in the recent history of the Republic of the Congo. Tamagni was awarded the highly regarded 2010 ICP award for Applied Fashion photography for this body of work.
Araminta De Clermont has photographed a series of portraits of young girls dressed up for their matriculation dance celebrating their graduation from school. They were shot on the Cape Flats, a vast area outlying Cape Town described by some as having been “apartheid’s dumping ground”. The Matric Dance has a huge significance for the girls in these photographs, and their families; for some it is a reward for having not dropped out of school, for others it is an opportunity to celebrate the reaching of an academic level, which the previous generations may not have had the chance to reach, and for yet more, especially in the cases of more impoverished families, it may primarily be a night of fantasy escapism, a chance to live out their dreams through costume and styling. It may even be seen as being the night of these youngsters’ lives, their first and possibly their last real opportunity to dress up no holds-barred, be the centre of attention, shine in a world where not much is certain, and life can be very hard.
On the Cape Flats, many families will deny their children nothing for this outfit; costs will be budgeted into household expenses up to a year in advance. An incredible amount of thought goes into what will be worn on the night. Some schools hold the dance right at the end of the school year, enabling them to insist that the school fees are settled before the dance, and threatening that it will otherwise be cancelled (at the same time ensuring that parents do not end up spending all the fees on hired limos, accessories, and so on, as they apparently often do). The resultant looks, seem to speak volumes: about the hopes, dreams, aspirations and influences of young South Africans today.