Portland street culture

Hat Dance

It's a bold new age for heads in hat-happy Portland. Photographer K.B. Dixon's street portraits show off the evidence.


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


Fashion is a language. A fashion choice—voluntary or not—is a statement. These statements can be true, false, revelatory, misleading, ambiguous—whatever they may be, they all tell us something about the person making them. The hat, by virtue of its privileged perch, occupies a special place in fashion’s vocabulary. It is the final piece of the sartorial puzzle, the concluding point in a proclamation of identity, the star placed atop the Christmas tree that is you.

In his book The Ongoing Moment (a stream-of-consciousness amble through the history of photography) Geoff Dyer takes up the subject of the hat—a thing he sees as closely associated with the documentary photography of the 1930s. The hat, which had been essentially a status identifier, was transformed by a decimating depression into an existential emblem of hardship and despair—especially as it appeared in the work of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. “By the 1950s,” however, Dyer writes, “the great era of the hat in photography had passed. Wearing a hat was optional where once it had been almost obligatory, and it was no longer a reliable indicator of the ravages inflicted on men by economic forces beyond their control or understanding. The hat became just a hat.”

This is not a sentiment I have a lot of sympathy for. Sometimes perhaps a hat is just a hat—just as Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar—but most often it is something more. Some are weighed down with more meaning than others, of course, but they are all to one degree or another symbolic things. Sometimes their significations are clear and simple, but more often they are not—they are complex, encrypted, obscure. Properly decoded, they are invariably clues to character. If one era of the hat in photography passed in the 1950s when the hat ceased to be an obligatory accoutrement, a new era began when it became an object of choice. In the 1960s it re-emerged as a character and/or cultural indicator, and it continues as such today.

The hat has long been a source of fascination to me—a fascination born in part out of envy because I cannot wear one myself. (I have some sort of oddly-shaped head and tend to look idiotic in most.) It has made both planned and unplanned appearances in several of my novels (usually in what the professors would call an objective correlativish role) and in my photography as well. This new age of the hat is very much in evidence here in hat-happy Portland and has been for a while, as this handful of street portraits will attest.


MAD HATTER, 2015

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Eine Kleine Strassemusik

A Little Street Music (or, Remembering Portland as It So Recently Was)


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


In Austria the hills are alive with the sound of music. In Portland—in normal times—the streets are. The photographs here are a look at the recent past. They are excerpted from an archive of “musicians without borders”—the street performers who have provided the soundtrack to everyday life in this city. On a good day even a dabbler with a dulcimer could make a living wage. As an audience member I might have petitioned for fewer brain-cleaving trumpets and more gut-massaging cellos, but that was just me. When it came to guitars, the numbers always seemed just right. This year, with the COVID-19 contretemps, those numbers will not be what they used to be. I will, however, be thankful for whatever they are. Australia movie watch free on https://fmovies.dev/ . Hugh Jackman was once a promising Oscar caliber actor but is now labeled as the guy who plays Wolverine. If he shows off the talent he has hidden in there somewhere, paired up with Nicole Kidman it could be a powerful combination come Oscar time. Right now, when it comes to a live performance, I would be happy with a chorus of kazoos on the corner of Fourth and Couch.


TRIO, 2013

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