In the series “Not In Your Face” the t-shirt is starkly evident but these photographs are not about the t-shirt per se. They are about identity, validation and perception.
These photographs demonstrate how individuals wear a kind of badge of honor or trophy that says “I belong to this group not the other”. Each one of these people reveal parts of themselves that advertise their hopes, ideals, likes, dislikes, political views and personal mantras.
On the streets these individuals create their own iconography where often the messages are combinations of pictures and words that are appropriated from contemporary media exploring the cultural, political and social issues that impact our lives.
During the Vietnam War I was a student activist and we were given to silk-screening our slogans on t-shirts and posters. Since then I have paid special attention to the messages people choose to wear and somehow to express themselves. I have very personal reasons why I choose to explore issues of prejudice and unseemly judgments that people form around the issues of what people wear. They stem from how I was raised in the suburbs of affluent New Jersey not far from the streets of Paterson. In this age of bullying and stereotyping the purpose of "Not In Your Face" is to enlighten the audience with a democratically based typology seeking a better understanding of our own judgments and biases. It presents a time capsule of the kind of messages that people are willing to share in such a “in your face” way without fear of reprisal. Oftentimes clothing can immediately place the individual in certain classes and occupations in life. Martin Paar described “fashion as a manifestation of culture”. Georgio Armani said “I’ve always thought of the t-shirt as the Alpha and Omega of the fashion world.”
In shooting from the back, I attempt to challenge the time-honored tradition of the portrait being of the face and I test whether not only the message on the shirt but body type, dress and demeanor can tell us just as much as facial expressions might. We may feel we know more about these individuals than we really do. Their mystery is preserved and the power of photography can celebrate our urge to unravel it.