Intitled (Spiky), Osaka

Oliver Sieber: Intitled (Spiky), Osaka, 2006
Oliver Sieber

As a generous permanent loan 43 works from the series J_Subs by Oliver Sieber have become part of the collection of Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur. The complete group which consists of 66 portraits is linked to other works by Sieber which are already part of the collection and include photographs from this series as well as from the series Die Blinden, 11 Freundinnen and SkinsModsTeds. 

J_Subs – the title refers to one of the first British punk bands, the UK-Subs and shows individual portraits of young men and women taken in Osaka/Japan, who identify themselves with youth cultures ranging from rockabilly to punk. The works show visitors to concerts as well as musicians, who Oliver Sieber took photos of in an improvised studio situation at the venue. Taken in front of a neutral, bright background and showing the head and shoulders, the image composition highlights the physiognomy and the special styles of each individual. These find expression in the characteristic clothing they have chosen, in the combination of various accessories, in their hair-styles and colours and in their make-up. It is these signs which are individual, yet at the same time show identification with a particular group, that have a particular visual significance for the photographer. And even more – they express life plans and gender typification, aesthetic parameters and beauty ideals are established. At least in their exterior appearance these young people do not seem to want to fit in with society’s conventions and normative expectations, they have formed their own community. Ultimately they mirror questions about identity, which are especially relevant in the particular stages of life of the youths or young adults. These are all elements that are of great interest to Oliver Sieber.
When, for example, we view the portrait “Untitled. (Spiky)”, we can see a young woman who favours an androgynous style. She is wearing a flat cap, a traditional item of clothing associated with the working class, and a biker jacket with striking badges on the collar. Her eyes are framed with clearly-defined eye-liner. Each of the elements named refer to an individual cosmos, but in combination a consistent overall picture of unorthodox taste evolves. Nothing in the outfit is left to chance, every detail, every colour combination is carefully selected for this “appearance”. It is a form of perfectionism which is the motto among the young people Oliver Sieber observed during his visits to Japan.