photographic index

ba digital photography london south bank university

Sindy Pussa

Title: …
Artist: Sindy Pussa
Type: Inkjet photographic print
Date: 2007
Description: …, London. Completed May 2007. Made in response to Anita Corbin’s photographic series ‘Visible Girls’, Girls Subcultures box held at the London South Bank University, London. A series of … images.
Subject: …, subcultures
Measurements: …x…
Location: London South Bank University Digital Photography Dept
ID Number: PI-RGSB-SP0001-SP00…
Licensing: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales, Sindy Pussa c/o London South Bank University, Digital Photography Course, UK

With my project I am addressing the issue of whether subcultures still exist today or have they been lost in the postmodern ‘anything goes‘ culture where everyone is different?

In the 1980-s, there were many subcultures in London and girls expressed themselves and used these to make them visible in the society. Anita Corbin went to all the different places where these girls hanged out and photographed many subcultures, including mods, rockabillys, skinheads, goths, punks, soul girls, now romantics and many more. It was not common to see girls having their own subcultures and not just being mere accessories to boys‘ subcultures. ‘‘Girls have till quite recently been relegated to a position of secondary interest, within both sociological accounts of subculture and photographic studies of urban youth, the masculinist bias is still there in the subcultures themselves. Subject to stricter parental control than the boys, pinioned between the twin stigmas of being of being labelled ‘frigid‘ or a ‘slag‘, girls in subculture, especially working-class subculture, have traditionally been either silenced or made over in the image of the boys as replicas.‘‘ (Bennett, A. (2000) Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, identity and place: p 27)

It has been argued, that girls subcultures do not exist today in the same way as when Anita Corbin was shooting her project, because nowadays people are free to dress the way they want and do whatever they please. Everyone is different and there is no need to restrict oneself to only a certain group of people, places and clothes anymore. Hence, no need for subcultures as they were. It is true that women are much more visible everywhere in today’s society and have equal rights. However, does that really mean they are free to do whatever they want?

There are still the ‘unwritten rules‘ in the society that impose certain ways of behaviour, appearance and dictate what kinds of interests are acceptable. Of course there are always people who do not care about fitting in and lead their lives exactly the way they want, but these people are mostly just eccentric individuals, not part of a distinct subculture. Having a deceptive freedom, but at the same time being restricted by society has caused today’s girls having many facets. In order to fit in, get a proper job, attract a decent husband and so on they are compelled to be conventional, not outrageous. Although what concerns hobbies and interests, for example music, they are expected to dress in a different way.

One of the main characteristics of postmodernism is the rejection of genres and the idea that difference should be celebrated. ‘‘Postmodern dress will contentedly put together an eclectic array of leggings, Doc Marten‘s boots, Indian necklace, waistcoat and ethnic blouse.‘‘ (Webster, F. 1995 Theories of the Information Society: p 170) Today’s postmodern society has certainly encouraged the mixing of subcultures and what is considered conventional as well as the mixing of different subcultures. There are more options out there as never before and people are much more aware of them has resulted in less distinctive subcultures. However, taking into account the postmodernist rejection of judgements of ‘good taste‘ can there be any subcultures at all anymore? The definition of subculture is that it is a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture. However, when the larger culture is the postmodern culture, which has no interests or beliefs, then there cannot be a reaction against it or a variance within it.

Researching for modern day subcultures I found that many of the subcultures that young people listed up, and that are usually considered as such, were not actually subcultures at all. Of course there were the age-old subcultures like punks, mods, goths and reggaes as well as newer ones like emos, hiphop fans and ravers listed. These are all subcultures that form around speficic genres of music and have their own distinctive clothing- and lifestyle. However considering chavs, geeks, daddy’s girls and topshop victims subcultures is questionable, because despite some similarities in their clothing style or attitude, they have no collective interests as activities, music or beliefs that could qualify them to be an actual subculture. Being common, smart or rich does not mean being part of a subculture, but just culture in general.

Today’s youth culture is definitely different from that in the 1980-s. With my project, I am exploring this multifaceted culture of girls, who have many different roles to fill.
I am telling the stories of four girls, using eight images, two of each girl. They are joined together by the fact that they all are estonians by nationality and best friends with each other. They all live in different countries around the world and every one of the girls has their own different mixture of interests and hobbies. They seem to have nothing in common, though the way the images look, the layout, composition, even the backgrounds of the images suggest that they do. The first image of each pair is of the girls in an urban setting with clothing that suggest that they belong to a certain subculture, but the text accompaning the image tells of the other characteristics of that girl. The second image of each pair is of the girls looking made up and ‘normal‘ whereas the text suggests that they belong to a subculture. All of the pictures and the information about the girls is real, meaning that the girls did not dress up to be photographed looking like a part of a subculture. All those characteristics are present in those girls and the photographs have been taken at a time when some of the aspects of their personalities came out stronger than others. To take photographs specificly for this project would have been contradictional to the whole idea of my project, that is the reason why I chose to use images from my own archive. The photos were taken in the course of approximately five years and throughout that time the girls have developed some new interests and different styles, but never denyed. rejected or forgotten their old selves. Many different subcultural aspects exist in them side by side. There is a goth who loves cartoons and cuddly toys; a posh power woman who smokes weed; a classical pianist who loves punk; and a soon to be a wife and mother who likes to party hard. Can a group of people with such an eclectic list of interests and characteristics be a subculture of its own? They are a subculture of eccentric girls.

These girls lead ordinary lives like everyone else. They work, study and have their interests and obsessions as well. They dress causally in everyday life, look very feminine and fabulous on special occasions, but sometimes their true personality still shows through their choice of clothes. These four girls represent the multifaceted youth culture of today, where options are countless and young people are less interested in following a set of conventions of a subculture and more eager to be themselves.

One Response

  1. Casey says:

    Wheres ya photoos??

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