Find five similar looking girls, i.e. height, body type, hair color and dress them in identical, candy colored outfits -i.e. red, knee-length circle skirts and white, sleeveless turtleneck tops- and have them pose in similar ways around iconic landmark locales in San Francisco, including Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, Sutro Baths and Ft. Point. As to why, photographer, Diane Villadsen has this to say, "I wanted to explore the repetition of shapes and colors," of her latest photography series, 5 of a Kind.
The idea originated a year ago when Diane conceptualized a photo shoot featuring, "a bunch of girls with bangs (fringe). I thought it would be cool to shoot group portraits of people with a similar look," she says. "That initial idea evolved into being less about bangs and more about general symmetry and identical outfits." Another inspiration she credits is Japanese photographer, Osamu Yokonami’s “Assembly” series.
The result is a unique proportion and composition study, one that draws viewers into the subject, causes double takes and prompts questions such as “Is that really the same girl?” and “Is it a composite of five different photographs?“ Then, observation kicks in.
The series took Diane seven months to realize, and each image has obviously been carefully thought out, such as - the one of the girls standing in the row boats and almost eerily staring at the camera through their black sunglasses. Yet, there is also a certain, carefree spontaneity depicted, seen in the image of the girls running against the wind, towards the sand dune. Diane says that she "liked the juxtaposition of a bit of strangeness with the warm tones of the shoot," achieved, in part thanks to the bright lighting captured on camera and the harmony of the backdrops.
It's interesting to see how identicalness is often deceiving. Upon close inspection, each of these girls looks quite different from the other and yet, through the "filters" of both their repetitive outfits and the camera lens, the viewer supposes that they are the same. It causes a bewildering moment of introspection, one that is especially poignant because it seems to come out-of-the-blue. Even this has been orchestrated by the photographer, as Diane says that one of her goals was to "evoke a more profound response in the viewer."
Although Diane didn't intend to provide a commentary on societal pressure, "I'd say this shoot represents the pressure to fit in and not stand out from the crowd," she says. What is for sure is that this photographic series makes us pause and consider our perceptions of uniqueness and individuality.