Photography by Riley Phillips


stArt@Hanes Gallery

“Berlin is a city characterized by unique styles and expressions. Though not one of the “Big Four” fashion city empires, Berlin provokes creativity and diversity, seen in the everyday street clothing and vibrant, urban environments. In the summer of 2019, I received a Richter Scholarship through the Department of German & Russian to research ‘Multicultural Influences and Developments in Berlin’s Fashion Scene’. Through this project, I found that Berlin is not the global fashion-industry epicenter that I had originally perceived, but rather, the city is a global creative hub with financial, educational, and developmental opportunities for artists, immigrants, and young people alike. Berlin embraces a distinction between formal fashion and everyday style, where fashion denotes a conscious dressing with labels, commercial influence, and ever-changing staples, while style denotes individual connections and influences from upbringing, background, and personality. Berlin, with such a diverse population of people and history, has a similarly diverse street style culture. It is a city with few codes and inhibitions, emphasized in the street styles and landscapes.”

“The images in this exhibition are selections of photographs from my time in Berlin, where I took to street photography and street portraiture as methods of documentary research and cultural assimilation. My experience with street style portraiture allowed me to make a direct connection with my diverse subjects, engaging in often bilingual conversation when asking to take their portrait. These conversations and the direct eye contact of the subject with the camera further enforce a sense of identity within the collection of portraits, as each subject embraces their style and dress with an instilled comfort and confidence. Inspired by the work and processes of the late New York Times fashion and street photographer Bill Cunningham, I was similarly attracted to my subjects for their use of clothing as an indicator of personality over status and label, photographing “fashion on the street,” with Berlin being the runway of this exhibition. Establishing an, albeit brief, verbal connection with these street subjects cemented my sensitivity and appreciation for their individuality. These portraits capture a glimpse of the expressed styles and attitudes of the diverse “Berliner” population.”

“The street photographs emphasize the bold and active environments in which I met these individuals. The collection of graffiti on the buildings, plastered layers of posters and art, and the comfortable movement of the inhabitants further compliment the street portraits in color and confidence. Capturing the textures and details of Berlin, these environmental photographs pay homage to the abstract photographs of Aaron Siskind with the body of urban hallmarks. As a city which has faced a history of isolation and uniformity, these motifs, settings, and styles embody Berlin’s cultural changes over the last thirty years, with the recent decades and movements like punk and club cultures supporting migration and explicit expression in clothing and landscape. The recurring emblems of bicycles and street collage serve as a testament to this uniquely developed pedestrian culture, sculpted by the Berlin people and maintained through cultural city values and evolved, historic preferences.”
“With the combination of observed moments and quickly composed portraits in this exhibition, I endeavored to identify the diversity and individuality of the street style scene and lively neighborhoods in Berlin. This body of street photographs serves to represent the development of Berlin’s culture into one of heightened creativity and expression– within clothing and community.”

Riley Phillips, 2020

stArt gallery’s in-person programming has temporarily moved to Hanes Gallery’s mezzanine. Please note that due to WFU COVID policies, only WFU students, faculty and staff will be able to access the campus and Hanes Gallery in the fall.

Recent Posts