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What We Wore

The idea for What We Wore came to me a few years ago. A lot of my work involves documenting youth culture and I noticed that often there was more variety and distinction in people’s own photographs than in professional photography. Often you notice that the way people caption the images would bring the story to life. I started my own Flickr group and asked friends to contribute. We ran the content as a weekly format on the website I run with Cieron Magat, Isysarchive.tv. We then developed What We Wore website and project it just grew from there.

Ed Silvestor for What We Wore
Ed Silvestor for What We Wore. Photograph: Nina Manandhar/What We Wore/Tate

When I was younger I was really into style: all the rituals that went with how I dressed. It was my first act of striking out as an individual. That’s why I’m so attracted to that era in people’s lives: adolescence and late teens.

A book was commissioned about a year and a half ago and since then myself and Eve Dawoud have been collecting images not only from everyday people but those with cultural profiles – Don Letts, Graham Massey (from 808 State), Jeremy Deller … People who have been involved with art and music.

Fiona Cartledge for the What We Wore project
Fiona Cartledge for the What We Wore project. Photograph: Nina Manandhar/What We Wore/Tate

The book is now divided into different categories: social spaces, home, “on the street”, away days, “we dance the dance” and shopping. When we’re looking at the images we’re looking at how these areas have changed. What you see is how people use clothes to belong, but also how people used clothes to reinvent things, how they used style as an act of defiance. One look can tell you so much about a subculture. With garage it was about brands, but older subcultures weren’t attached to any named designers, really.

What we want from the Tate event tonight is for people to come along and bring their own pictures. Chosen images will go on the website and some might go in the book if people are happy with that and they’re selected, then there will be an exhibition in October. There’s something in the nostalgia of these images than can’t be faked.

MC Tunes for the What We Wore project
MC Tunes for the What We Wore project. Photograph: Nina Manandhar/ What We Wore/ Tate

Nina Manandhar is the co-founder of Isysarchive.tv. You can find out more about What We Wore here. Late at Tate Britain runs from 6.30pm (4 April) and members of the public can turn up and submit their photographs. Admission is free.

• Bell-bottoms or tie-dye? Tell us what you wore when you were younger.

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