Caleb Cole has a very inquisitive mind. His curiosity is aroused by both the ordinary and extraordinary looking people he comes across on a daily basis. Often he is led to ponder the kinds of lives these people may be leading, their unique experiences, and what the world means to them. To Cole, many separate realities exist, and it varies from one person to the other. It was this thought provoking idea that led him to start a self-portrait series called Other People’s Clothes. Cole, a self-described visual and performing artist explains his thought process for the series, now ongoing for five years.
“…When I am in public, I watch people going about their daily routines alone; I wonder about the lives they lead, wonder how they experience the world around them and how they make meaning of it. I spend time inventing stories for them: narratives of isolation, of questioning and searching, of desire, and of confusion. The images in Other People’s Clothes are a product of my exploration of private moments of expectation, a visual expression of my experiences stepping into the shoes of the types of people I see on a daily basis.”
Cole’s jump-off point for this project is clothing. The idea is for him to step into an outfit similar to those he sees worn by people he randomly comes across in public. From there, his fertile imagination takes over as he conjures up a character. The whole intricate process involves setting up a mock-up living space, where he imagines you would find each character living in. It is a tedious process that shows the meticulous nature of Cole, who is photographer, director, concept artist, set designer, and model all rolled into one. While the project may seem self-indulgent, it is an honest expression of an artist’s innermost reflections.
He explains how he produces each photo,
“Each photograph in the series is a constructed scene that begins with an outfit or piece of clothing (either bought, found, or borrowed), then a person that I imagine to fill those clothes, and finally a location where that person can play out a silent moment alone… Though I am the physical subject of these images, they are not traditional self-portraits. They are portraits of people I have never met but with whom I feel familiar, as well as documents of the process wherein I try on the transitional moments of others’ lives in order to better understand my own.”
Check out his work over on his website.