Hans Eijkelboom is a Dutch photographer who has done several series of images about people.
In With My Family (1978) he posed as the father with a mother and their children in their living room. The rooms are busy and reminiscent of the June Street images of Parr and Meadows, although of course, the twist here is that the ‘father’ is not the real father (and possibly the families are rather higher in the social scale). However they look totally relaxed and could easily be mistaken for a ‘real’ family. I wonder who took the images as there is no sign of a cable release– was it an assistant, or could it, in a further twist, have been the actual father. More recently, Trish Morrissey (discussed in Masquerades) has done a similar set of images for her series Front (2005) where she became the ‘mother’ in photographs of families on the beach. In these images she took it further as she borrowed items of clothing from the actual mother before posing. On her website she says, ‘Ideas around the mythological creature the ‘shape shifter’ and the cuckoo are evoked.’ (Morressey, 2017). Both of the series raise the question about the reality of images, and what is truth. Does it matter that the apparently happy family group is a constructed one? What does that say about the identity of families? How can an outsider know? One assumes that groups of people on the beach or in the house are related if they are shown in a family album – but they may not be. The further on in time from the image the less certain one becomes. I have images in my family archives of similar (although less professionally posed groups) where no one now alive is sure who all the people are.
Eijkelboom has carried on working with identity. His more recent work People of the 21st Century, collected into a series of Photo Notes shows people he has photographed on the street. He then collages groups of people who are wearing very similar outfits. Does this show loss of the individual? But everyone is subtly different, their personal slant on what is the current fashion. Although this is in some ways a retake of Sander’s People of the 20th Century there is no overt attempt to categorise the people by their place in life or their class, although assumptions might be made by the grouping and the clothes. In An interview Eijkelboom says, “That’s a very strange development in society. That wasn’t the intention at the start of the project, but in the end you could say the book is about a fight, a war within society: more and more, big companies have their grip on people, in producing the clothes and so on. But in the book you see the possibilities to give it your own personal touch. When you now go to the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, everybody has their own individual message on their T-shirt. But on the other hand, they all look the same, because they are all people with a message on their T-shirt. You can already see a little bit of change, making the power of the big companies weaker, I think.” (Petridis, 2014).
Morressey, T. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Trishmorrissey.com. Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/workpg-01.html [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020].
Petridis, A. (2014). Same but different: Hans Eijkelboom’s tribal street photography. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/23/hans-eijkelboom-street-photography-tribes-people-twenty-first-century.