People make sense of their world and their place in it through a process of cultural assimilation and meaning. Images and stories have long been a way of people expressing who they are, how they fit into their world and their relationships within it. Creating an identity through the appreciation and use of aesthetics allows people to express who they are and communicate with others. They do this by using their experiences, cultural codes and their knowledge of the world to form who they are, and to create their memories and aspirations. Identity construction is not internally focused on discovering a true essence, but instead is “focused on the individual’s reaction with a cultural world that keeps evolving”.
Photography is the means by which we record where we have been, who we are and what we value. It is a powerful means of sharing and communicating knowledge, experiences, emotions not just with friends and family, but also with the public, if we so wish. According to Schroeder, identity has now become ‘inconceivable without photography”.
Fashion has always used photography to fascinate and attract. In doing so, it contributes to experience and helps form one’s identity. The images have the power of allure, a state of being that “produces captivation, in part through our own explorations of it”.
Barthes has said that ‘clothes are the material basis of fashion, whereas fashion itself is a cultural system of meanings.’ The contemporary context as well as history both come to bear on meanings given to clothes in a diverse society. And varied fashions give rise to different meanings.