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Fashion / The workers will wear red to the gallows
By Shira Breuer

A great deal has been written about the prolific connection between art and fashion. A photography exhibit by Adi Nes, winner of the 2003 Leon Constantiner Photography Award for an Israeli Artist, which is currently being shown at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, once again sheds light on the power and uniqueness of the merging of forces between the two fields.

The photographs in the exhibition, which will close on March 20, appeared in September in the Fall/Winter 2003 issue of the Vogue Homme International fashion magazine for men, and were part of a large fashion project dedicated to the Middle East, and designed to commemorate the anniversary of September 11. The editor of the magazine, Richard Buckley, turned to photographers from Cairo, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Istanbul, Ramallah and Kuwait City, and invited them to photograph a series of pictures that would reflect life in the Middle East.

Buckley approached Nes because of the success of previous projects of his, including the photography series "Soldiers" and "Teenagers," which were successfully exhibited in Israel and worldwide. As in his previous works, in the Vogue project Nes is preoccupied with Israeli male identity, and his photographs have a homo-erotic cast. But this time, instead of soldiers in uniform and youth in prosaic situations in an environment reminiscent of his native city of Kiryat Gat, the men were photographed in a jail, and assumed the characters of prisoners and policemen.

"The framework story of the project is prison, as a metaphor for Israeli society," says Nes. "A prison that contains a representation of population groups in Israel. I decided to photograph people from real life, not models, as part of the concept that fashion is a part of life. The project deals with male identity and image. I wanted to deviate from the regular format of models who are wearing clothes."

Those photographed in the pictures are men who were approached by Nes, including an employee in an advertising agency, the Man of the Year of the magazine Hazman Havarod (The Pink Time) - the Israel monthly magazine for gays and lesbians - as well as Chinese workers and teenagers from Jaffa. Nes chose the clothing for the project together with British stylist Paul Mather, whom Vogue assigned to him. After intensive e-mail correspondence, says Nes, "Mather came to Israel with four suitcases full of clothes."

In some of the photographs the clothes look quite ordinary. In a photograph of a boy from Jaffa who is confronting a policeman in uniform, for example, the boy is wearing a leather jacket that looks like an old item of clothing that has been through a lot, but is actually a new jacket with a worn look, brought by Mather from the Valentino fashion house. In the group photo of the prisoners, on the other hand, one can already detect details that give away the fact that they are wearing prestigious designer clothes.

"My point of view is very ironic," Nes says. "I did reserve duty in the Ketziot Prison in Ansar, and I saw the prisoners walking between the fences of the camp. I made the transfer from the fashion show catwalk to the route of the prisoners' morning walk, including the line up, which looks like the way the models are posed on the ramp at the end of the fashion show."

In other pictures - like those in which a pair of twins is seen wearing military-style shirts by Kenzo, or three Chinese workers wear red clothes by Paul Smith, looking like condemned men - the clothes already become like uniforms. "I wanted to examine what happens when the fashion element is copied many times, because then it becomes a uniform," Nes says. "It comes from my background, because when I was growing up in Kiryat Gat in the 1980s, the entire town was very influenced by the Polgat clothing factory, and everyone bought Ligat clothes [Polgat's everyday clothing line] with discount coupons and wore the same thing. I remember that I cut the collars of my shirts and made an effort to have my clothes `look different.'"
The photos by Adi Nes deal with male identity and image.
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