Notre Dame

Charles Fréger’s first incursion into foreign lands for these Portraits photographiques et uniformes was across the Channel to Norwich, England, which is twinned with his home town of Rouen. Notre Dame School is another educational establishment whose pupils became the subjects of his photographs, this time in their school uniform. It is a mixed school were pupils have to wear uniform until they reach the final year (at 17 years old). After that they can wear what they like to school. In this flexible framework, it is noticeable how the students gradually appropriate their uniform. The young children obey the rules and wear the uniform properly; then come the pre-teens making more or less timid attempts to bend the rules, with things like jewellery, make-up and crooked ties; the teenagers are clearly downright rebellious. The emergence and development of this conflict with the uniform and the institution that it represents, and also a certain impatience with still being considered a child, come across in the images in the way they gradually adopt the whole range of adolescent poses.
Notre Dame is one of the few series – along with Glögg and Palio – to include clothes other than uniforms. Although the didactic quality of this series, which deals with the evolving relationship of the individual to his uniform, calls for such a treatment, Fréger rarely includes street and casualwear or other fashion items and consumer objects in his work – one way of avoiding obsolescence.