Ant Smith

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Within and Without, City Living

11th May, 2008: a photo essay

On our relationship with the city, how we escape from it while living right in it...

Stand-out red jacket in Soho, London

Okay, so the jacket wasn’t the only coloured thing in a monochrome world. But this guys presence, stride, glasses and hat all proclaimed “Hey, here I am”. As if, as though, we were meant to care. But looking around at the others in the scene, you can tell – actually we don’t care. This is the nature of our city’s anonymity. You can be the biggest fish in your own small pool but the city will still render you, invisible.

Do we really believe adorning our frames with mass-culture fashion product will change all that?

Lady carries her lunch

Sushi box lady knows this. See how she meanders more than strides. Her gaze is on places far away – possibly the holiday she’s just booked, her new job next week, the husband she plans to leave, the really great lay she had last night. Of course it’s impossible to know. But she dresses simply, smartly, coolly. She passes by me with not a blink. I’m left thinking, I hope she enjoys her lunch.

But you see, she’s a little older, a little more secure, a little more, sorted.

These conceits of space and time, of being right here, right now, are follies of youth.

Boys queuing for shoes

London’s Regent Street - the very hub of this fashionista dynasty; and strewn along the pavement? Hoodied youths queue for shoes. Queuing for shoes, like some side shown from the cold war. But these shoes – despite the advertiser’s claims – are not won through fight, they are simply bought. But bought first. Being the first. Being so deep in the here and now in the hope this impels us in to an ungraspable future.

But of course, it does not.

Blurred man passing old building

My next view is from Soho. An old and dark small bricked building undergoing modern refurbishment. The bright lights spill out from the evacuated chambers within. The conversion of this listed foreboding experienced building to what? Some home left empty or some bar filled nightly by emptied chic? Yet what stories are carved in these old stones? What spectres could be released if we saw clearly back through time. Instead of peering dimly forward to our own ends? Someone in trainers walks on by leaving one firm step and one long blur of perhaps maybe but what? Nothing much to speak of a life…

So our worlds exist in concrete terms beyond this here and this now. Or else we decide to sew purple patches upon our gowns to proclaim our position, to be visible to our brethren all around. But the actual effect is upside down… seeking the elusive sexual draw of fashion strips us nearly bare.

And leaves us exposed, sexually prone.

Djimon Hounsuo in CK panties

Back in Soho Djimon Hounsou happily displays his body in intimate enlarged detail. Using his sex to sell us pants. Posted in the thoroughfare through to china town. An entirely inappropriate proposition for most that walk past. But of course, it isn’t an attempt to convince the old Chinese couple to buy these pants. It’s a grand statement. CK knickers are desirable. Sexier than any of you stood down there, on that hard stone. Reach up here and see what you may have!

I want your sex

George Michael
Shop mannequins in lingerie

It seems perhaps an old appreciation of sales and fashion, to say ‘its all about the sex’. But the shop girls picture shows it in solid certain terms. You know, it is all about the sex. That little death. The ultimate attempt to be screwed so tightly in to the here and the now that we move into the future by claiming immortality. By dressing up in fancy feathers we are effectively saying ‘I’m worth a shag, bear my child, make me immortal, release me from the drudge of this world let me pass beyond to a brighter future”.

Such is the illusion. But of course that future is just moments from this present – in geological terms.

It will be no different, it offers us no release.

Man in dirty white coverall with trolley

And the seventh image shows a very reasonable man going about his very reasonable business, ferrying things around on his toy trolley. Walking past a very high fashion shop called ‘Dirty White Boy’. The shop frames this man in his coverall as if proclaiming him to be the dirty white boy. As if the very city sneers and scorns his life. As if he is the outcast for not partaking in this fashion show that so is London’s Soho.

Our real lives, our truest feelings, lie in the universal.

Sky-clad author

That which exists beyond and without our own small egos. This street fashion threatens to smoother and bind while dangling trinkets of immortality. Whilst all the time we are better to cast out this mortal coil, by casting off these ties that bind.

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