Ehrenstein is of Albanian artist who lives in Germany. Her double identity pushed her to take an interest in the difference between elite culture and popular culture, between reality and fiction, false and true. For about four years, she met women on the street, on social networks and spent a lot of time in beauty salons. She wandered into her hometown, Tirana, the capital of Albania, in search of clothing and counterfeit goods, “sewn into the retail landscape” that were modeled by 80 Albanians.
Her series is called Tales of Lipstick and Virtue and she wants to question representations, identity, visual and sexual self-determination, femininity. Anna Ehrenstein asks the question: what makes us authentic?
She has read, studied and reflected extensively on the subject of style, identity, globalization, and bad taste. For her, the idea of vulgarity, clothes, fashion are political. What is considered original or authentic is often linked to contexts and power relations. What is luxury today, was not considered luxury yesterday. High fashion works in cycles, which are repeated. Thus, says the photographer, the African-American hip-hop subculture was picked up by fashion in the 1990s, and is now returning to the heart of the millennial pop culture. Streetwear becomes haute couture, and the elite culture appropriates the popular culture.
And it is also the context of Albania that makes this series interesting, according to the photographer; these photographic tales bear witness to an era, a style, a mixture of globalized influences, local Albanian culture and femininity assumed and claimed, where authentic and extravagant go well together.