Over a period of four months, on the first Friday of each, I documented the simple act of getting a haircut. Utilising portraiture and evoking the aesthetic of early documentary photography I photographed the participants of the free haircutting sessions held at St. Mary's House of Welcome. Turning the humble haircut into a poignant moment of reflection.
Since its inception photography has been used as a tool for classification and identification, attempting to coolly and objectively catalogue objects and events, which are often loaded with social and political undercurrents. The haircut is a moment of physical intimacy between strangers. I documented this process and each individual's transformation by making portraits of the sitter before, during, and after the hair cut, taken straight on, without embellishment or interpretation.
Hairstyles are often used to signal cultural, social and ethnic identity. Although men and women have the same hair, hairstyles tend to conform to cultural standards of gender, varying with current fashion trends, often being used to determine social status. A haircut evokes questions of physical and social transformation; from unkempt to kempt; from homeless to participatory citizen; from outsider to insider.
The subjects and the methodology of my work evolve from encounters I have in my personal and professional life, much of which involves members of society that I feel are often under or misrepresented within the broader cultural context. Often I am drawn to rituals cultural and personal. For me ritual is an ideal vehicle to explore the human condition.
By presenting the subjects wrapped in the barber's apron, devoid of other social indicators such as clothes or accessories; and by using only the barest of photographic devices, I aim to strip the portraits back to their essential elements. The camera is unflinching, stationed at eye-level in place of the mirror.
Catalogue essay by Lisa Byrne
lower your ears was exhibited at Monash Gallery of Art 12th Oct - 2nd Dec, 2007.