My Plastic People
By Jose Seigar
10 Unknown Facts about My Plastic People:
1. Most of them are women.
2. Most of the photos are spontaneous, without previous planning.
3. Shop assistants are usually curious about what I am doing. It is nice to interact with them.
4. My favorite plastic people live in UK.
5. My first plastic people photo was probably taken in Venice, Italy.
6. Recently, I miss faces in plastic people; there is a new tendency to show headless or faceless. I think it is sad and terrible.
7. In my plastic people you can see traditions, beliefs and values from the towns they were taken.
8. I really enjoy finding the reflections of the buildings behind me, especially when the architecture is interesting. I don’t work with double exposure.
9. People normally stare at me when I take photos of shop windows. Some can stand behind me until I finish the shooting.
10. I hate the tag with the price on clothes, though sometimes they can enrich the composition.
This set belongs to my most personal, serious and ambitious project so far. I try to give dignity and humanity to the plastic people around the world. As a street and travel photographer, I have had the chance to take photos of shop windows in many cities, and there I have found the inspiration for these images. They tell me tales and stories about life. They always show me their human substance. Every photo creates a fantasy. Their faces, looks, eyes, clothes, shadows, and reflections portray them as the modern society.
In this selection, we find these beautiful women surrounded by reflections of their cities. Reflections always help me to make complex photographs. I’m not afraid of complexity. I like getting richness. I don’t try to follow conventional compositions. I just keep loyal to my eye. If I need to break rules to show an image, I just do it. I feel my plastic people are free. There is even some chaos in the worlds I portray.
These ladies seem all to be feeling different emotions or sensations, such as confidence, arrogance, sadness, dreaming stare or challenging poses. Viewers can realize there is a human touch inside them. My intention is the humanization of mannequins found in shops. I feel the need to make them talk to the world. They all have a message to say. My visions are just the way they have to speak, working as a channel.
My visions have been influenced by pop culture. I have been attracted to the works of unique and strong artists. I guess they have deeply inspired me, even though you cannot see directly their prints in my photographs. What you can see is that I conceive art as a passion. I refer to artists such as the cinema makers like Pedro Almodóvar, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Aldrich, Quentin Tarantino or Lars Von Trier. In the music and performance category, I feel devotion for the threesome Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince. Then, Frida Kahlo, Dalí, Picasso and Warhol are the painters that obsess me. The best photographer in the world right now is Mister Martin Parr; I must confess “he is the one”. All these artists share something in common; I will call it strong views.
I have been participating in exhibitions and been featured in international magazines with this project. My Plastic People have become an essential part of my street photography. I owe them the world. I would like to keep on travelling to find more characters for these tales. It’s so inspiring when I get to a new city, town or a village; and I go around walking, looking for them, the reflections, the saturated colors, the buildings and architecture behind them, the lights and shadows…It’s exciting!
There is also a cultural aspect in them. They sort of represent the people from the country they were taken. Their mood, clothes, body awareness issues or make up show the traditions, beliefs and even values from the places. I would like to end this short essay about them, stating the universal human quality of this project, because as I said before, they have become portraits of our modern society. There is an analogy with the human nature.
TP: As a travel photographer, what drives you to a certain location?
JS: I live in Tenerife and I travel to UK at least twice a year because I feel a special connection to the people and the urban/rural landscape. I have been working on a photo-narrative series entitled “Tales of a City” there since 2015, these photographs reflect all my fetishes: street portraits, My Plastic People, abandoned objects, food and messages conveyed in the pop form with the use of reflections and saturated colors. I guess that I’m also engaged with their culture and lifestyle because of my university background, I studied English Philology at the University of La Laguna, in Tenerife. I admire their sense of humor and how they discuss about every single issue until they form rules or ways to approach each matter. I’m intrigued by their conventions and also the manners they assume them.
Apart from that, in my last trips I’m trying to explore “less common” places. Last summer I visited Hungary, all around the country except Budapest because I had already been there on a previous trip, so I captured the less known places like the Hortobagy National Park and I could photograph the impressive horse riders there. This summer I have been in Moldova and explored its never ending sunflowers/corn fields, the typical wineries and monasteries, and I had the opportunity to get impressions with my camera in Transnistria, the non-recognized Russian-like country or in the very rural Gaugauz.
I’m interested in documenting traditions and how people relate to them. Lately I have been fascinated by the concepts of identity and the self. I would like to grasp what defines ourselves and with that in mind I’m planning my new projects. We are living in a world full of hashtags and labels so I want to link that to my photography, expressing with images the adjectives that define us.
Traveling is an enriching experience and it is still my main inspiration, getting closer to what I consider “exotic” can even inspire me more. So I suppose my destinations are turning to less common places to document its customs.
TP: Do you seek diversity for your shots or does something else guide you to the mannequins?
JS: I love diversity and I like the idea of living in a plural and diverse society, respecting and even taking advantages of our differences. Learning from the people who are not like us would be the ideal.
My Plastic People in many ways represent us. Outside, they just wear what we wear, they use the same make up and hairstyle we do; even sometimes their body shapes simulate ours. Inside, they also show emotions and feelings through their faces just like us. They are a reflection of our modern society. It’s like looking ourselves in the mirror, that’s what we are.
In the shop windows we can encounter and analyze different concepts such as culture, tradition, identity, genre, urban tribes, social classes, economic issues, patriotism, stereotypes, male and female roles, and religion. They work as a metaphor of human beings. Their expressions transmit emotions and feelings. As the people they can be happy or sad, they can cry or smile, have their eyes closed or opened; and even decide to stare at us defiantly or in a submissive way. Just a glance of a shop window can say a lot about a place and its people. All these readings are possible. This is what interests me the most about my plastic people.
TP: What is required of you when you find a plastic person?
JS: It is exciting for me, so first I need to try to calm down and control the situation. The camera is the medium I have decided to convey the story of My Plastic People so I need to use it right. Once I get the settings, I try to picture what is important to capture their personality and then I start making decisions. Does the reflection I have behind help or distract to set the context? Will it be a close up or I have some storyline in their clothes? Where should I position myself? Like a photographer at a studio I make some decisions and then, I shoot. I let my heart to speak, when I feel something special I’m sure the photo will keep that sensation too. I’m always drawn by passion when I take photographs of shop windows.
TP: Do you find yourself using products inside the shops to elevate the humanization already being placed upon them?
JS: I don’t. I just adapt myself to the situations and contexts.
I never interfere in the elements, even when I can do changes. I think I prefer to find my ways around the shooting. I’m more concerned about the point of view rather than trying to push the humanization. It’s more challenging and appealing for me.
TP: Has there been an encounter where you were setting up a shot that attracted a lot of awkwardness or attention? What was that like?
JS: I sometimes find the designers of the shop windows doing their job and I’m totally in love with the process. I admire their work and I’m grateful because that work has meant a lot to me as a photographer. They create and art beauty in the display. Recently I have met an artist that works in shop windows design and we are planning to do a collaboration, so it will be a different approach to My Plastic People. So finally I will be able to document the process of creation of one of these artists.
TP: You’ve gotten a lot of attention from this project. Has it changed or maybe validated how you view yourself or work as an artist?
JS: My Plastic People have been an essential part of my work so far. They have called the attention of many publications, museums and galleries.
In London I had the opportunity to attend to the launch of Porridge Magazine, one of my photographs made the cover of the magazine and I met the editors and all the mag family. It was a blast! I have had the chance to do a solo exhibition in “Instituto de Estudios Hispánicos”, and I have participated in several collective exhibitions in places such as “Circulo de Bellas Artes”, “TEA FotoNoviembre”, “Phe Gallery”, “Tank Festival”, “University of La Laguna Photography Awards”, “Sala Fleming Gallery” and so on. In one of these exhibitions they were showing Salvador Dali’s works at the same time that for me meant the world, I adore this genius. I have also shown my video pieces in different events. And I even curated the first Summer Art Market at a English Library which is over 100 years old.
In November, I will be showing a Plastic Woman in Rome at the Loosen Art Gallery, and a collective exhibition in Berlin organized by Purple Haze Magazine is also coming soon. Can’t wait!
I’m glad that this project has opened so many doors for me. In a way I feel they put me there, it is because of them I have been able to show other series and my creation process has been evolving since then too. Recently, I have been experimenting with the video format, I have directed a short film and a video art piece.
My Plastic People project has also led me to look for the same views and perspectives in people, so the issues they have shown me are now the interests that I want to document about people’s lives such as identify, the self, traditions, love or genre.
TP: Do you see an end in sight for this project? If not, what are the missing pieces?
JS: It’s an ongoing project and I don’t see an end right now to it. What’s left? To be sincere if I find a new plastic person I will be willing and thrilled to shoot! I also revisit the same plastic people as much as I can, why? Because they as people evolve, I have seen my plastic people to wear different clothes, wigs or even going bald. Depending on these external factors their face expressions also seem to be affected. I like to document these changes because as I said, it is a sign of our time.
Finally, I have been tempted by many real flesh and bones models to shoot them as I do with My Plastic People, so that is also another natural next step forward in this project.
I’m sure that My Plastic People will give me new ways to keep up my motivation in them.