Birds of a Feather Flock Together

So many factors work against the best interests of the street photographer! There’s the constantly changing light, the hostile attitude of people who hate to be photographed, and the incessant movement that causes perfect compositions to disintegrate before our eyes before we can press the button.

How delightful it is, therefore, when something works in our favour! One such factor is the tendency of people to dress in similar ways whenever they join a group.

I guess this harks back to our prehistoric past when we all belonged to a particular tribe. Some of us still do. If we join a company that has a corporate uniform, or if we’re in the armed services, or simply working at a job that demands a certain kind of clothing — then we’re behaving tribally once again. It’s all to do with identification, of being part of something greater than ourselves.

Young couples often dress like each other, not because they don’t have individual taste but because they like to demonstrate what they have in common. Perhaps they go shopping together and express a liking for certain materials, styles and colour combinations.

The two people in my featured photo (above) make a harmonious composition with their shared love of burgundy red. I was fortunate to come across them when they were enjoying a wine tasting at a winter street market — and luckier still to see them sampling red wine rather than white. Spanish burgundy?

Larger Groups
It’s a little more unusual to find larger groups of people wearing similar clothes unless they share the same occupation. I saw these four guys (below) walking away from a street carnival at the end of the day. I have no idea who they are, but for that very reason I find them thoroughly intriguing.

four guys

As you may know if you read this blog regularly, I like pictures that compel the onlooker to make up a story to account for the content of the image. Here’s my own version. It may or may not be true.

Four friends, possibly members of a boy band, came to town dressed in their normal clothes (not the ones you see here) and discovered there was a carnival in the afternoon.

It was a bright day, so they all bought sunglasses in matching styles, then one person had the bright idea of buying matching clothes as well. As a result, they popped into clothing retailer H&M where they picked out identical tee-shirts, shorts and socks.

The town is full of party stores, so it was easy to find some colourful, carnival-style garlands. The only problem — apart from non-matching trainers — was having to carry their regular clothes in the H&M shopping bags. Maybe next time they’ll come fully prepared!

Working Parties
If you’re looking for colour repetition among groups of people you could do worse than photograph men and women at work. When people are obliged to wear a uniform they automatically make a harmonious picture. I hasten to add: it’s up to the photographer to make sure there are also other reasons for taking the shot.

working party

The group shot of people at work seems to be most successful when the individuals clearly show their unique personalities, despite wearing identical dress. Such an effect does not come across when you see, for example, a distant shot of soldiers on parade. They all look very much alike. But in civilian life, people are free to express themselves in different ways while still being able to work together effectively.

I have a couple of shots to support this theory. The first (immediately above) shows three guys setting up an outdoor sound system. They all look pretty efficient, dressed in the corporate tee-shirt, with two of them wearing the corporate baseball cap as well.

However, each man has a separate task to perform while communicating with colleagues, including someone else at the end of the telephone, presumably back at base. Individual personalities are apparent, making a contrast with the similarity of dress. The red arrow and stark white of the untouched water bottles suggest a sense of urgency, but the man with his back to us — with the jaunty pigtail — provides a calm, stabilising influence.

I took a similar, but more humourous shot on a later date (below). Again, there are three guys making preparations for an event, putting name-tags on seats. A passing TV cameraman is not part of their “tribe” because he wears a different corporate outfit and works without any reference to the others.

panda theatre

The photo would not be as amusing without the family of pandas in the background. They’re all part of their own tribe: Mum, Dad, and the two Cubs.

Yet like each of the men in the photo, the pandas seem to have individual personalities. The young male has a zany hairstyle and is the only one expressing any concern. Likewise, the man in charge — who points with his finger and seems to be saying “that’s where it goes” — is equally self-conscious about his hair. What appears to be a colourful comb juts out from his back pocket. The young panda looks aghast!

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