Caleb Cole’s work focuses on themes of identity, isolation, and search for self identity. Other People’s Clothes is a body of work in which Cole explores his fascination with people’s daily lives. He admits that when he is in public he watches people engaging in their daily routines and wonders about the lives they lead and how they experience the world around them. Cole invents stories about these people’s lives and then photographs a scene from their imagined day. In each photograph, Cole starts with an outfit of clothing, then a person he imagines would wear these clothes, and then creates a scene where that person would act out a moment in their daily routine. Even though Cole is the one wearing these clothes, I don’t think of these images as self-portraits. Rather they are images of private moments of unknown people, imagined characters that Cole encounters and brings to light.
Odd One Out is a series that grew out of found photographs purchased from antique stores and estate sales. The original photos are generally of people during special events (weddings, reunions). The images are selected because of one person within the images who does not fit in, one person out of the many who is not a smiling face. The photos are then digitally altered to isolate the person from their surrounds by a field of white. The white field maintains the shape of the crowd. This serves to highlight the person who feels invisible within this group.
I find both of these bodies of work intriguing because of the imaginative story telling that Cole does with these photographs. We don’t know any of these people, in Other People’s Clothes we are witnessing a private moment in a fictitious life of an unknown person, yet as a viewer you are still able to connect with that person. In Odd One Out the cutout crowd is what initially caught my attention. In my own work I deal with feeling of isolation and insecurity. I have been interested in using cutouts in some way. Cole has managed to beautifully integrate these two ideas.