Martin Parr’s portfolio of photographs featuring Gucci watches captured in Gucci Places: Dapper Dan Atelier and LACMA—by Kyle Chayka.
In a stately brownstone on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, north of Manhattan, is the boutique of Dapper Dan, reopened with Gucci in 2017. Harlem is the hub of African-American culture, particularly music, from the jazz age of its 1920s Renaissance to soul singers and, most recently, hip-hop. The wide streets hold stories that any cab driver can tell you.
The United States has always been driven by the glamor of being able to create yourself, the way Dapper Dan turned himself into a taste-making tailor for rappers and stars in the 1980s, remixing luxury garments. Fame is hard won, and made by hand, as the materials of Dap’s atelier show. Fashion is assembled out of these pieces, needles, ribbons, and scraps.
Dressing up can be a way of trying on a new identity, and Americans are experts. Martin Parr’s images of the US show the notion you can be whoever you want to be, or at least imagine. Everyone poses and preens, especially in the lambent sunlight of Los Angeles. Everyone in the photographer’s frame is a celebrity to the camera.
The artist Chris Burden installed a forest of local lampposts in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Visitors dodge in and out of them, Instagramming. It’s contemporary art but also history, displaying a chronology of the city’s infrastructure over time.
It’s the details that make an outfit, or a place, come together: an art installation, a striped sleeve, or a wristwatch below a minimalist tattoo. Little signs that signal identities as we move through the world. Martin Parr captures Americans who aren’t trying to pretend they’re anyone else than who they imagine themselves to be.