In January 2004, while the French government was debating banning religious and political symbols from schools, Catherine Balet began taking pictures of signs, labels, codes and icons that have social and aesthetic significance in the teenage world. As she extended that project from Paris to London, Berlin, Barcelona and Milan, it quickly became a record of the dress codes in European schools, a reference work on tribal subdivisions there. Teenagers in their struggle for identity and self-esteem, troubled by an urgent desire to be different, usually adopt the codes of a group, often inspired by music trends and always tweaked by circumstance, conscious individuation or both. In each city, Balet discovered the same music, fashion, brands, bands and labels. Only the details differed, reflecting the complexity of the history of each country or the influence of its migrant populations. In London and Barcelona, where the uniform is a school institution, details are all that students have by which to define themselves: Balet captures the way’s in which these students customize their outfits. Her large, richly descriptive portraits, set in the street, combine documentary style with poetic sensibility, capturing the complex mix of youth and age inherent to adolescence, its fragility and determination, and the era’s new mix of global homogenization and local individuation.



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6 thoughts on “Identity”

  1. Interesting post indeed, I can relate to this post. Growing up in the Late, late 90’s and graduating in the early 00’s, I can see how govenrnment has tried to change young subculture; by having them all dress in uniform and eliminating them from having their own personal identities. Gone are the days of individualism. I remember my 6th grade teacher talking about individualism, and how our adolescence will play an important role in figuring out who we are as adults, but I doesn’t matter what WE thing as the government DOES for us. Thats total bullshit. I, as a gay boy more than likely won’t have an offspring, but I preach to whats next to my closest to my DNA offspring, my teen nephew, to be himself and never think that government is the decider of all things in life.

    thx for reading my rant, and raving. Love you all!

  2. yes, the Eton boy looks like he’s posing against the wall used in the Wall game – or perhaps school yard. I used to love wearing those starched collars

  3. the kid in top left pic of 4 small ones rules! Love his style of clothes and even more love his super cute face!!

  4. There is an immediate dis-juxtaposition of Eton’s school attire with contrasting ‘pleb street-wear’…

    Please be fare to the ‘plebs’ who, at differentiated State schools, might wear wonderful uniforms emblazoned at the chest with Latinized legends surrounding historicized heraldic Colours proclaiming England or St. George or The Faith…

    The fair-haired Eton boy, pretty and Edwardian-ally-old fashioned-ally well turned out as he is, says nothing for Queen and Country as do State Schools at the heart of majority ordinary school pupils each and every school day wearing nondescript school blazers.

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