Shades of Difference in Exactitudes

June 2nd, 2012 9:00 am


Exactitudes is a project started in 1994 by Dutch photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek. Over the past two decades, it has evolved into a passionate anthropological documentation of the dress style of numerous varied social groups or subcultures.

The subjects are photographed in groups of a dozen in a uniform manner against a white background in order to emphasize the overall similarity of their look as well as the subtle differences between them. The subjects are not styled at all– they all wear their own clothing to the studio.

“[F]ashion is a language,” Versluis explained in an interview on Vice Style. “It can be a very delicate language, or one that you can shout out loud, and there’s always an identity aspect connected to it. We try to find identities rather than trends but, of course, the first thing you see is fashion, clothing and apparel so we try to be very precise with what we portray, because styling is all in the details with these groups.”

“[O]nly history can tell if this social group is really as relevant as you thought it was at the time,” says Versluis to Vice Style interviewer Jamie Clifton. “It’s like that Susan Sontag quote about how, as a photograph gets older, it either becomes much more important, or it proves to not be important whatsoever.”

Of his work on the Exactitudes project over the years, Ari Versluis says, “After nearly two decades of observing people and scrutinizing every detail, deep down, I’ve developed the rooted principle of never judging anyone. That’s a very humanistic kind of view, and might not be the way people interpret the project, but that’s really how I feel.”


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© Anne Kroul, 2013.