Contemporary commercial spaces and places with ever (sadly) growing prevalence of homogenised multiples’ retail experiences, using a multitude of large format graphics in every combination one would care to mention seem more and more to be exploding images on to the high street of the latest ‘darling’ of the internet or the celebrity-turned-designer (I always wonder if they actually design anything at all – probably not?). Often so many contain unknown faces of people no-one has never heard of - although one feels one should know them - unless you happen to be fourteen years old (maybe I’m showing my age here). With this mass pollution of the high St., it seems an ever impossible task to suggest alternatives and overcome at least a little, the might of these global chain stores and the way that they present their product to us in and throughout their commercial spaces. If there isn’t a formula and it hasn’t been budgeted to the penny or dime then very few companies seem to want to know that there are in fact a multitude of opportunities yet to be explored. It seems an even greater task too, to wrench the creative process out of the hands of the number crunchers and uncreative marketing. Personally, I don’t actually care that my hair has got its mojo back – or that it lost it - although what little hair I do have left, I grew myself. No suburban Russians former locks are going to be glued to my mane of spun Gold thanks very much. And so it seems that, at least for now, we are destined to live here in large format and bland ‘Graphic land’ for some time yet.
However perhaps we can look beyond the latest glossy gossip rag promoting the latest nobody-who-has-ever-done-anything-significant rut that we find ourselves in and inject perhaps a little more thought and depth into the process?
With a little scratching below the surface and a quick trawl around the internet, a visit to an exhibition or gallery, one can find some real gems ‘in here’ and ‘out there’ and none more so than photographer Roberto Foddai. Foddai, of Sardinian origin has worked in London for well over a decade. I found him through pure serendipity and was immediately drawn to his work. With his series of images, such as Men Wearing Dresses (stick that in Prada’s windows why don’t you?) Despair, Strength, the Hitler series, and portraits of Catherine AD, Foddai explores a range of narratives developed through social story telling. Exploring the complex layers of what it means to be human, he unravels some of its complexities and opens a discussion for us to decide what we think rather than telling us what he thinks we should think. The areas which Foddai explores are initially perhaps seemingly a little confrontational, although this is very much from an intellectual rather than an aggressive perspective. He confronts and challenges, through Men wearing Dresses, for example, the whole essence of masculinity and what we perceive this to be. It is the emotional discomfort that Foddai captures in his images of these very masculine men photographed while wearing female apparel. New concepts for images are also developed through the product itself, most of which are found items or purchased second hand and therefore are already loaded with their own narratives and sense of journey before Foddai reinvents and challenges their original context and purpose while simultaneously capturing the outcome.
If we can persuade commercial monoliths to at least scratch a little beyond the latest reality television programme winner and/or adopt the kind thinking and working that Roberto Foddai does, surely we could all live with the pollution of the high street a little better? I’m not suggesting however that Topshop design dresses for men or that L'Oreal suddenly adopts images of a vulnerable Hitler, this would be a literal translation of Foddai’s work, however, with a little more thought, depth and selection of visuals surely this would make the high St. rather more interesting? In the meantime, c’mon then Hitler lets say it, "because we’re worth it".