‘I stood up straight like I wanted my subject to for his portrait.’
I had stopped listening by the time that the father of my chosen subject told me that his son, Mario, has learning difficulties. I’d made my decision and gone into an automatic ‘patter’ of politeness. I don’t mean that flippantly. I mean no disrespect to either Mario or his father.
I had just stopped listening and had concentrated my efforts into seeing the finer details of the individual. I had picked him, objectively, as an addition to my typology of a sub-cultural group at the skate park.
As with the other subjects in this series of photographs, Mario’s identity is shaped by signs. Some of the signs have been bestowed upon him, such as age, gender and race, and fall into an everyday system used by us all, influencing how we choose to accept and understand each other. However, our interpretation of others’ identities is also swayed by a more complex construction. There are choices that they have made in how they present themselves: brands, clothes and hairstyles, for example. These signals inform our analysis of them.
A breakdown of these signs denotes that Mario comes under the umbrella of skater, along with the other subjects in this group. However, although they may all be sending similar skater ‘sub-culture’ signals, they are all distinct personalities. In Mario, I was conscious of something else, a stillness that drew me to him, without knowing anything personal about him.