For years now I have followed the likes of Internet-based bloggers Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist, Yvan Rodic of Facehunter and Tommy Ton from Vogue.com. These street style photographers have an eye for finding that special something about the men and women of some of the world’s big cities. Each blogger has a slightly different point of view and interpretation of what makes for great style, and their images provide me with a constant stream of inspiration.
Wellington photographer Jaymee Morrison has taken the concept of street style a step further with her New Zealand-wide project We Are Individuals. She has been documenting the style of Wellingtonians who dress with originality and passion for some time and I caught up with her to find out more.
What is We Are Individuals?
We Are Individuals is a photographic documentation of people who dress with a strong sense of identity. I studied for three years (Bachelor of Applied Arts) at The Photo School in Raumati on the Kāpiti Coast. We Are Individuals is a project I began during my third year. I am grateful to have had Professor Tony Whincup as my tutor throughout this year. The process he taught our class changed my thinking as a photographer and shaped this project into what it is today.
Where did the idea come from?
While I was studying we were asked to establish a ‘question’ of interest. My question was ‘How do we differentiate ourselves?’. This formed the basis of a major body of work.
I’ve always felt passionate about fashion. I knew that I wanted this to be a key theme in my work. I started researching different types of fashion in subcultures, fashion history and unique trends. I started noticing how people differentiated themselves through fashion.
During the development stage I was influenced by a number of street style blogs like The Sartorialist, Humans of New York and Advanced Style. I established that I wanted a street style aesthetic in my portraits.
How is it similar to or different from other street style initiatives?
The main difference between my work and other street style projects is that my images are taken in locations significant to each person, as opposed to spontaneous portraits taken on the street. Once I find a person to photograph I interview them, establish a location that suits their identity and then take their portrait. The process is more personal.
What is the significance of individuality? Why ‘individuals’?
I first began researching fashion in subcultures and realised that people in New Zealand don’t seem to belong to one particular subculture anymore. Fashion is influenced by a number of these groups and one person can style from multiple subcultures. The idea of documenting subculture felt too broad and undefined for me. This is why I decided to focus on the individual.
We are all individuals and how we choose to show this through our clothing varies from person to person. I do believe that we all participate in fashion on some level. We make individual choices as to what clothes we wear.
What can you say about ‘Wellington style’ or how your subjects regarded the way they dress?
I feel like I have covered a broad range of styles from Wellington. I didn’t focus on one particular age group which meant that I got to meet a lot of people. Those who I photographed were really supportive and interested in taking part, for some it was a new experience.
I am drawn to the people I photograph because they express more than just a fashion statement. They aren’t afraid to be themselves and speak confidently about what style they like. I enjoy hearing about what colours they would and wouldn’t wear, the patterns they are drawn to, the type of fit in garments they prefer and their influences.
What can you say about your own style?
This project has had a huge influence on my own individual style and confidence. I feel inspired by these people therefore I am constantly evolving.
I like being noticed as looking presentable and a little unique. I love new and pre-loved clothing. I love dressing up every day and having a wardrobe full of clothing.
Is fashion and style important to you?
Fashion has always been important to me. It’s a part of my lifestyle and development as a young woman. It’s important for self-expression. I also think there is potential to be original when it comes to the fashion industry.
Where can we find out more about what you do?
Over the next two or three years I’d like to continue taking these portraits all over New Zealand and posting them to my blog. Eventually I’d like to publish a book with a selection of the portraits and interviews. I’d also like to exhibit the work at some point.
Jaymee’s website, jaymeephotography.com, features the We Are Individual series and her portfolio. You can also ‘like’ her Facebook page, facebook.com/JaymeePhotography