Clear Cut—a new photo series by lensman Christoph Soeder—features clients at the Atlantic barbershop in Newport, Wales. Wearing striped coverups, males from various walks of life are pictured against a red backdrop right after getting their hair cut–in some images, their barbers’ white chalk outlines are still in place. Through their uniformity, the portraits highlight the way in which a communal space, like a barbershop, temporarily connects guys from all different walks of life. “Uniqueness and community or diversity and community are not a contradiction but rather a combination everyone can benefit from,” he says. Read our interview with Soeder and take a look at the complete series below.
“Uniqueness and community or diversity and community are not a contradiction but rather a combination everyone can benefit from.”
CASSIUS: What inspired Clear-Cut?
CHRISTOPH SOEDER: The Atlantic barbershop immediately caught my attention when I moved to Newport in South Wales for being slightly off at the very end of the commercial street, for its grooving music and interesting mix of people. At first, I was actually looking for places to make images for an assignment for university titled ‘people at work’ and started photographing the barbers there. It was then, that I noticed how the striped cover ups, a red wall in the shop and the talc powder used by the barbers, can be combined to frame the customers’ features.
C: Talk a bit about the process of creating this project.
CS: The photographing took about a month. Altogether I visited the shop regularly for about two months and started to design and produce the book after that. I didn’t take many pictures of each customer, but it was moreso a matter of spending enough time in the shop and identifying those customers with whom I really clicked.
C: There’s a compelling uniformity to the images with the red backdrop and white outlines. What inspired your approach?
CS: My approach resulted only from elements that I found in the shop. To make them work in a typological format I used a fabric backdrop instead of the wall and set up a mini studio with flashlights in the corner of the shop. Customers posed for the camera right after they got their hair cut but before getting cleaned up and while still wearing the coverup. This effect of actually amplifying people’s individuality by imposing some degree of uniformity upon them really fascinates me.
C: Explain the role of barbershops as community hubs.
CS: I think barbershops can be very democratic locations due to the simple fact that most people need a haircut every now and then. Ideally, this brings together people from various background and allows for cultural exchange. It was a pleasure to listen to all the stories from around the globe while photographing Clear-Cut. I recently discovered a barbershop around the corner from my apartment in Berlin, which is run by Kurds who fled to Germany around 10 years ago, which again got me interested in the communal aspect of barbershops.
C: What do you want people to take away from this project?
CS: Even though it is only the elements of the barbershop and the typological format I used that make the individual stand out as part of the community, it reflects the bigger picture I believe in: Uniqueness and community or diversity and community are not a contradiction but rather a combination everyone can benefit from.