The Hairdressers

‘I don’t mind being burdened with being glamorous and sexual. Beauty and femininity are ageless and can’t be contrived, and glamour, although the manufacturers won’t like this, cannot be manufactured. Not real glamour; it’s based on femininity.’ ~ Marilyn Monroe

These images are from 2013 when I, quite accidentally, got a chance to go behind-the-scenes of Pro Hair Live, an over-the-top celebration of all things hair.

It’s an industry event held each year in Manchester, United Kingdom and it brings out all the stars and major brands in the world of hairdressing in a wonderful mashup of a giant trade conference, live TV demonstrations and a no-holds-barred hairstyling competition.

Strange, fascinating and beautiful all at the same time.

But that’s not what brought me to Manchester. I was there for work, blissfully unaware of the goings on at the Manchester Convention Center. I was spending all of my free time wandering the streets, photographing the city. It was on one of those outings that I came across several women walking around with hairstyles that would make John Waters proud.

Weird but, ok, this is the UK, they do things differently there. Then I saw more and I knew there must be something going on.

I mean who sees a bunch of attractive women walking around Manchester, let alone with crazy hair-dos? Manchester, is trying hard to become an alternative to London, but the city has a deep industrial, blue-collar heritage and isn’t exactly a place you associate with avant-garde fashion.

The result was this series that eschews the typical posed and contrived images for candid photographs that bring to light the reality of the fashion industry that profits from, and perpetuates, the myths of beauty (and great hair.)

So I followed a group of three and wound up in front of the convention center where there were about 100 stylishly-coiffed people smoking cigarettes on the front steps. There was no way I could leave without seeing what was going on inside.

I found the press table and explained my situation – I’m an American here to photograph the City of Manchester. I handed them my business card and told them I freelanced for Strata, which is the street photography collective where I’m a member. With no questions asked, they gave me a pass and handed me a glass of champagne. From there on out I had full access.

The HairdressersThe strange thing was that while there was a mob of photographers at the event, they were all crowded around the runway, shooting the same models from the same angle, as if their lives depended on it.

Since I wasn’t really there for the hair or the women, I wandered around looking for quirky candids and off moments.

The result was this series that eschews the typical posed and contrived images for candid photographs that bring to light the reality of the fashion industry that profits from, and perpetuates, the myths of beauty (and great hair.)

All images © 2013 Chris Suspect. Chris is a street and documentary photographer hailing from the Washington, DC area. He specializes in capturing absurd and profound moments in the quotidian. His street photography work has been recognized internationally. You can see more of his work on his blog, Suspect Device.

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