Photographer Libby Oliver is fascinated by clothing’s power to both reveal and obscure our identity and desires. Her portrait series Soft Shells explores this tendency to visually represent our personality through garments and accessories, while also using these tools to mask our insecurities from the outside world.
For her series, the Canada-based photographer piled on every piece of clothing her subject owned to create photographs that first appear like heaps of laundry. The viewer is clued into the individual’s presence by small peeks of flesh—strips of foreheads or hands that protrude from the messy stacks of blouses, scarves, and pants.
“This work arises from my interest in artificiality, visual power relationships and indexing a person through their belongings,” explains Oliver in an artist statement about the project. “Through this series I aim to explore the tension point between a person’s curated individuality and my personal manipulation of their aesthetic. Soft Shells speaks to human vulnerability, trust, power and control relations of visual interpretation.”
Oliver hopes to travel the ongoing series to different locations in order to represent a wider range of identities, clothing, and cultures. You can view more of her wardrobe-wrapped subjects on her websiteand Instagram.