Art review: Chris Saunders, Edinburgh Institute Gallery

HOW’S this for an outfit: bright yellow trousers, green belt, purple checked shirt, pink bow tie, blue striped socks, pink shoes and green laces.

What sounds like the combined wardrobe of a clown and a children’s television presenter is, in fact, the carefully chosen ensemble of Thabo, a member of the Smarteez Fashion Movement. And, like the rest of the subjects captured by Chris Saunders’ lens, he is coolness personified.

Colour is everywhere in this small, vibrant exhibition. South African-born photographer Saunders started his career in fashion and advertising, and it shows. Thabo and his friends know how to make a fashion statement, but, equally, Saunders knows how to broadcast it with his camera – as well as giving a real sense of the men behind the Movement.

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Saunders’ aim was to create a portrait of contemporary South African street culture, choosing dancers, designers, musicians and DJs to illustrate his point.

In one seemingly incongruous photo, rapper/DJ Spoek Mathambo poses on a large heap of rubble, holding the reins of a donkey.

In another, electro dubstep duo Dirty Paraffin stand on an old pick-up truck, in front of their local supermarket.

Most remarkable of all is a photo of DJ Invisible, taken at Johannesburg’s Orange Farm township in 2011. His brownish gold suit gleaming, he leaps through the air, radiating an energy and dynamism that stays with you long after you’ve left the building.

Rating: ****