Best foot forward

11 December 2009 | This 'n' that

diem

Diem Hy and her trademark curls

When you step outside your office, what do you see? Not the streets and buildings, although photographing them could be an interesting project too, especially when you live and work in a city as self-consciously monumental as Helsinki. No; we’re talking about the shifting landscape of people and their clothes, as documented in the primarily photographic website Hel Looks.

A ‘hobby project’ by Liisa Jokinen and Sampo Karjalainen, Hel Looks documents fashion in the streets and clubs of Helsinki. It’s self-consciously a fashion project – in addition to documenting Finnish looks, Jokinen and Karjalainen want to ‘encourage people to dress and create their own styles… to promote emerging Finnish designers… because we like fashion, clothing, young people and photography.’

For us, though, the stories the pictures tell are more fascinating. Each entry shows one or two people. usually photographed in the street, accompanied by a brief quote from the subject. Some simply roll-call the designers they’re wearing, which may be interesting for the fashion pack but not so interesting for the rest of us. But others offer self-analyses that could, at the very least, furnish the beginnings of a short story. Diem Hy, 17, for example, is shown  in jeans and a second-hand leather jacket: ‘My hair is my trade mark. I’m not sure if I could live without my curls’; Simo, 18, likes ‘all clothes that date from before 1992’, Buster, 18, dresses in his grandfather’s clothes and likes to think ‘that I can dress old-fashioned but keep my mind fresh.’ Tiia, 22, simply ‘likes the colour blue’ (and indeed is dressed in nothing else). The range of selves, and self-presentations, is endless. Any authors in search of a character can simply apply here.

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