As Roland Barthes noted, things depicted in fashion magazines are meant to be perceived as unobtainable, their main purpose being that of seducing and impelling the viewer to make a “utopian investment”, to compulsively desire and fantasise. There seems to be nothing utopian about someone’s used clothes: cheap, easily available and deprived of the appeal of virginity, they cannot be used to as a blank screen upon which to project one’s dreams and aspirations. And yet, they seem to possess another luring power: their opacity, their untold, hidden histories lend themselves to all sorts of interpretations, triggering a very different kind of fantasising process.
The peculiar visual aesthetics of snapshots found on online classified ads sites exemplifies the concept of the “uncanny”, explored by Freud in his famous essay. Cropped out heads and limbs, repetitive contrived postures assumed by the models who try to hide their faces by obscuring them digitally or turning away from the camera – all these bizarre ways of presenting items of clothing, which serve the function of our “expanding skin”, create those very conditions of uncertainty and doubt that force the viewer into the mode of inquiry, making her also ponder upon her own mortality.
Finding my initial impetus in these ambiguous feelings, I set out to let go of the conditioned ways of seeing mundane objects and to restage the familiar scenarios. I appropriate the visual language of the online classified ads platforms, but use their distinct aesthetics in an exaggerated way to accentuate the dark, disquieting aspects of the found images. As a result, the process of mental identification with the photographic image becomes perturbed midway and never reaches completion. The collapse of the body represented in the pictures brings the viewer back to the stage preceding the attainment of an integrated image of the Self, thus alienating her from herself. The objects, on the other hand, having been rejected by their owners and offered up for sale, acquire the status of waste and thus become transcendent – their locus now being in Lacan’s unutterable “real”.
Feodora Kaplan is a photographer and a photography critic based in St.Petersburg, Russia. Her academic background is in philosophy, aesthetic theory and cultural history. Since 2013, she has been collaborating with various institutions, lecturing and writing on photography-related subjects. Her photographic series have been widely exhibited and have appeared in various international photo festivals. Her publications include: Calvert Journal, Optamatic Fotoreizen, Photographer.ru, Syg.ma, Gomma Mag, F-stop Magazine, YET Magazine, R0P Magazine and others.
all images and text © Feodora Kaplan