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Louis De Belle: Cartographies

Work / Photography

Photographer Louis De Belle’s unconventional portraits of New York commuters

A frayed shirt sleeve, a button dangling on loose thread: look closer and it’s surprising how much visual information you can glean from the clothing of strangers about their lives. Milan-born photographer Louis De Belle, who we wrote about back in 2014 when he turned his lens on failed dioramas, has made a series which tells us as much about Louis’ subjects as our own preconceptions.

“Cartographies is a photographic series I shot during a residency in New York,” the Berlin-based photographer explains to It’s Nice That. “I wanted to work with a very ordinary subject yet focus on a precise aspect of it.” Instead of capturing commuters in full, Louis paid attention instead to the marks that their journeys and working days had left on their clothing. “The idea reducing visual information to a minimum, by isolating pedestrians’ clothing, originated from a personal interest for drapery, the depiction of folds of cloth in sculpture and painting. We all travel to appreciate masterpieces (think of La Pietà di Michelangelo!) but we often ignore what’s in front of our eyes everyday.”

“I shot all the images in the streets of Manhattan with a telephoto lens in day light and with an extra flash to enhance the plasticity of the clothes,” Louis explains of the process behind the series. “The resulting images are quite abstract and show folds, creases and even sweat stains along the folds of the different clothing. These few traces become impressions of everyday lives, eventually cartographies of everyone’s journeys.”

Louis tells us that a selection of images from the series have been chosen by Colin Westerbeck and Joel Meyerowitz for an upcoming reissue of Bystander: a History of Street Photography, to be published later this year by Laurence King Publishing.

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