RM, 2022. Softcover, 176pp., 9.5 x 12.5 inches
In Solus Volume I, South African photographer Pieter Hugo (born 1976) reflects on the values implied by the fashion industry’s shifting aesthetics through portraits of street-cast models found in diverse locations such as London, Paris, New York and South Africa. Hugo found himself captivated by sitters with unconventional and atypical looks, particularly before they underwent the machinations of wardrobe, makeup and hair. Drawn to this uniqueness and recalling the sense of not-belonging that is part of the intense experience of youth, Hugo’s invitation to the models was: “simply present yourself.” The resulting photographs embrace vulnerability and frailty as much as they do the agency and idealism of their subjects. Hugo’s typological study questions fashion’s commodification of youth and the “outsider,” while embracing the beauty of peculiarity worn with acute awareness and the paradox of craving both difference and conformity.