San Francisco, 2001
Although we know that this portrait by Albrecht Tübke was taken in San Francisco in 2001, there are no specific hints about the location in the picture. It is just clear that it must be an urban area, this can be deduced from the tiled floor and the concrete wall in the background. We can see a meticulously dressed man wearing a classic three-piece suit, sporting a hat and a walking stick. Wearing clothes far removed from any current sportswear a particular character approaches the viewer, whose idea of taste seems to stem from an era influenced by standards very different from today. Not only does the overall style of clothing, but also details like the brooch or tie-pin hint at another time. Terms like “casual” or “business” have to be investigated again. The only more modern accessory is a pair of sun-glasses. Photographed full-figure, the man turns towards the camera and thus also the viewer. The picture is captivating through its clear colour setting, the monochrome-grey background, the reddish tiled floor, the light-grey suit – down to every detail each component forms a harmonious composition.
The photograph is part of the series Citizens, which Albrecht Tübke compiled in various cities around the world. In the portraits he reflects appearances in public spaces, without regional influences, instead he traces the phenomenology of urban identities in the 2000s. As Tübke shows, the appearance that everyone creates for themselves when they enter public spaces is oriented towards fashion, trends or conformity, it reacts to opportunity or is directed by a feeling of belonging to specific groups. In the portraits the street is a stage which inhabitants of urban areas use as their own “personal catwalk”. And when we take into account that more and more people head for the city all over the world, then the series Citizens by Albrecht Tübke has undoubted relevance.
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln