The photographer Diane Arbus said, “I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them.” Arbus is one of London-based Tom Johnson’s favorites, and her words ring true when looking at Johnson's latest photo series in collaboration with stylist Charlotte James. How would we ever get to see images of so many generations from Merthyr Tydfil, an ex-mining community in South Wales, all wearing high-fashion clothing, if it weren't for Johnson's photos?
James, who is from Merthyr Tydfil originally, cast some of her friends and family in the series, alongside locals and passersby. While the photos challenge the notion and convention of a "fashion" image and what constitutes style, they're more joyful than voyeuristic.
At the beginning of the year, we were fawning over 80-year-old author Joan Didion as the surprising face of Céline, and 71-year-old singer Joni Mitchell as the face of Saint Laurent. Months later, the Fall/Winter Acne campaign featured the brand’s creative director’s son, 11-year-old Frasse Johansson, posing in great big heels. They were advertisements that pushed fashion forward, because they joined a cultural conversation. Johnson and James' series, ahead, does this and more, because it leaves us curious.
We want to know: How does eight-year-old Kyra, with all that gorgeous red hair, feel in her Agi and Sam jumpsuit? Does she think it's silly? Does she like it? And how did Terry and Lee, the men embracing, meet? And do the people featured in these pictures from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales have any idea just how cool they are? Click through to see the images and decide for yourself.