Apparently lurking about taking pictures of unsuspecting members of the public is OK if you do it in daylight, and not with a long lens through their window while hidden in a tree at bedtime. Actually that does sound bad now we’re reading it back. In contrast to our legally-questionable efforts, Hans Eijkelboom’s people-watching photography is all above board, with permission granted and everything. Illustrious colleague Martin Parr suggests that Eijkelboom’s work surpasses that of an interesting documentary exercise and can be seen as important on an anthropological level.
The Dutchman has meticulously photographed and grouped common types that typify sub sections of society from the past 20 years, often identified by an item of clothing or accessory. Based in Amsterdam, Eijkelboom ventured from his studio to international cities including New York, Venice, Shanghai and São Paulo, selecting busy pedestrian areas in which to wait and watch for periods ranging from 30 minutes to several hours. During an observation period he would identify common patterns and begin documenting examples of that type, whether it be people wearing fur heats or clutching the same carrier bag. When back at home he would lay the results into grids called Photo Notes which, by way of their arrangement, go a long way to debunking our proudly-held assertions of individuality. More than 6,000 images have been gathered in a huge 500-page tome, People of the Twenty-First Century, along with an essay by American philosopher and art critic David Carrier. Tipped to become a cult object, the volume is available from publisher Phaidon.