Three years ago photographer Thomas Alleman drove past a sexy American Apparel billboard awkwardly juxtaposed above an auto repair shop in East Hollywood.
“I found the dialogue between the simple, clean, and direct presentation of a hip fashion fantasy and the urban environments that surround theses ads really striking,” Alleman wrote via email.
And so he began capturing the infamous ads, which often feature scantily clad women, as they appear all over Los Angeles, where the company is based.
Alleman shared his photo series, entitled “The American Apparel,” with us along with his thoughts on each photo.
'This is the photograph I usually begin with because it really establishes all the basic elements of the ad campaign. The disarming directness amongst the razor wire and brittle desert foliage,' Alleman wrote via email.
'This is one of my favourite images, because it clearly achieves the contextual balance I strive for in these pictures.'
'I'm drawn to the vacant lots, auto body shops and junkyard street corners where these billboards tend to thrive,' Alleman wrote via email.
'Though it might appear otherwise, this particular image was made about 200 yards from the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, from which two or three of the most desirable neighborhoods in America bloom.'
'Like most Los Angelenos, I'd seen these American Apparel billboards a million times, but had never given them a second thought, and certainly hadn't considered photographing them ...'
'... however, the juxtaposition of the billboard design and real world happenstance seemed too cool to pass up.'
'The commodification of women's bodies, especially the sexualization of very young women is something that American Apparel is clearly a proud participant of, without doubt.'
'... and when an amateur is in front of the camera, the photography itself becomes correspondingly unsophisticated.'
'The results look anarchic, but I'm willing to bet the post-production process is extremely deliberate and thoughtful.'
'In order to keep the photography series interesting for the viewer, I like to vary my angle of view dramatically from scene to scene ...'
'... one of the great pictorial challenges is to place the subject of that picture as far away from the camera as possible without losing it in all the nonsense that surrounds it. This picture is one of my favourite examples of this in the series.'
'... it's the brand, of course, and its vibe and its mojo and whatever juicy pop associations can be brought to bear on that behalf.'
'The ads can be seen throughout LA, though they tend to mass on the eastern half of the city. This photo was taken in a working class Latino area where religious murals painted on the side of a mum-and-pop stores dominate.'
'I waited almost a year for an ad to pop up in this location. I photographed homeless men limping down that sidewalk and grandfathers chasing toddlers beneath the sign. This image however, was my favourite.'
'This is one of LA's great taco trucks parked underneath an American Apparel model performing some mysterious gesture above.'
'I stood on the roof of my car and took this picture in my neighbourhood. This billboard was only around for three days before it was replaced with another advertisement.'
'One of my favourite American Apparel ads, for the sheer richness of gesture and nuance in the model's performance. I climbed 20 feet above Silverlake Boulevard during rush-hour to take this photo.'
'I took this picture at an Arby's on Sunset Boulevard. I was on my knees and chatting with the man in the photo about John F. Kennedy.'
'Some pictures require a long, quiet wait to help them bubble into fruition, and so, grudgingly I do settle into place when necessary. On my knees, in the middle of the street, I waited fifteen or 20 minutes to let this scene play out in front of me.'
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