I HAVE SEVERAL QUESTIONS FOR STREET STYLE BLOGGERS:
-if other photographers are capturing the same subjects at the same time, is your own work devalued?
-what are the most coincidental and spontaneous things that have happened during shooting?
-what are the stylistic/aesthetic qualities that differentiate your work from other street style photographers?
-would you rather work for a magazine or a newspaper?
-are you an Artist? a Journalist? an Advertiser?
-can any street style photographer be considered an artist?
When I wasn’t skipping film class I did try to learn a bit here and there. Soviet film, experimental lyric and structural film, feminist film…the essays were often shoddy or not handed in, but the screenings helped inform me creatively and politically. These cinematic influences affect the aesthetic of the videos moreso than any connection to street style photography.
Is it superficial to make videos about fashion? To what level should voyeurism be regulated? Can the male gaze be trained and focused in different directions? I try to address these questions in my work.
The structure of the videos is deliberate. If the results were creepy and did not pass my aesthetic moral standards, I would make something else. I am not a relentless force of voyeurism (and positivity) like Bill Cunningham, I am too self-conscious to allow myself that. Bill’s focus on trends ensures a diversity of race, sexuality, body type, and class that shields him from a lot of criticism*. My aesthetic is closer to Scott Schuman the Sartorialist, whose curated depiction of street style takes a step away from reality. http://www.gq.com/style/profiles/201109/bad-street-style-trends-fashion-week The trappings of now ubiquitous street style photography in the Sartorialist mode have been written about elsewhere. Motion picture photography naturally injects a bit more realism to the proceedings, at the risk of being more objectifying. While it’s easy to grab great snapshots of on a telephoto lens, creating motion shots requires the consent of the subject, otherwise you end up with footage of peoples asses as they walk by and that isn’t cool.
Upon a first look it may appear that my panning shots in which the subject is ‘scanned’ by the camera are objectifying and creepy, but I see it as the only way to avoid objectification and creepiness.
-A wide shot that shows the entire subject is not acceptable. Any direct attempt to represent the experience of seeing someone on the street will not translate. Filming from a further distance, while technically depicting the whole of a person and their outfit, does not express the factors that affect the real experience; the energy that someone gives off, the subtle combinations of facial expression and body language, the physical environment, and the way these interact with their style are what informs the experience of seeing these people. Given its likely presentation online and on small screens the viewer is not seeing something large and high resolution enough to appreciate certain fine details that exist in person**. If a video was shot in extremely high resolution and projected as a life sized panoramic image a long shot would be appropriate, though the video would end up taking on a less positive and more ambiguous context.
-Close-ups can be used in presenting fine detail that goes beyond what someone would experience in real life. The New York Times’ ‘Intersection’ video series pairs wide shots of stylish people with split screen close-ups of accessories, and feels a bit impersonal. Though we do get close-ups of faces included in the split screen effect, these shots are always in a grid layout that has a dissociating spatial quality. Outfit, or outfit worn by a person?
-While street style photography depicts a still moment, photographers will often take several photos, instructing the subject on how to pose or moving to a different location with them. Filming multiple takes and poses as well as close-ups could take more time than that, reducing the amount of willing participants.
Given these conditions, I find the recurring upward pan shot to be the best choice: it shows off close detail while putting the emphasis on the person wearing the clothes. This approach does not resemble the actual process of looking someone from head to toe or vice versa. The eye has too many subtle motions to look in a straight line; it jumps around. This makes the pan a specific cinematic gesture. Because the outfit/subject is never shown in full, there is a risk of losing full appreciation for complex combinations of elements. It is this lack of entirety that forces the viewer to create an additive mode of reception, and piece things together. Plus it gives each shot a mystery and a reveal to avoid dullness. It also takes a short amount of time to film, and takes pressure off the subject to pose in any way; the camera is the runway, the walk, and the pose- Scott Schuman has claimed that older women and larger women will not allow him to take photographs out of insecurity, but his process, which sometimes involves touching the subject and potentially taking several minutes, is biased in favor of people who know how to pose for the camera. While I will admit that there are many older women who will not let me take their pictures under any circumstances, and I am SURE that some of them are upper-crust rich jerks, I must also accept that the context of what I’m doing is confusing to a lot of people, and that many subjects are just ‘too classy’ to participate.
Perhaps there is a disparity between the process and results, where lack of proper context has made subjects uncomfortable. I am confident than even someone who finds it weird that I crouch down and then stand up to film them will feel more positive if they see the finished product, which is why I give out cards to my subjects.
While the portrait segments of the videos adhere to the greatest level of structural normality, it is the bookending segments of city life that are the most troublesome and blatantly voyeuristic, as I do not normally seek permission for these kinds of shots. With the portraits, while my own personal taste comes into play, I try not to be entirely affected by emotion, otherwise I would end up photographing way more gorgeous people who are dressed boring. With the other material, I do allow myself to be commanded by my emotional response to something that I see. I’d rather film something then decide I shouldn’t use it than regret missing something important. My Paris video almost ended in a shot that really summed up my experience of the city, except I felt it was wrong to film at the time. There was a street orchestra playing amazing music with a big crowd right near the Louvre, and standing a couple of feet away from the violin section was a large homeless man with half of his ass exposed, holding multiple bottles of wine, screaming violently at a violinist. I still probably wouldn’t have used the footage, but it spoke perfectly to the oppressive and horrible vibes I experienced in Paris. Street Style #15 contains one of the best images of the series, that of a woman waiting alone on a street corner who then smiles when her companion arrives and gives her a hug.
*I also have a relatively high level of diversity in my work, but less than Bill when it comes to class. Too often I probably film well-to-do people. This likely class disparity will be addressed through work outside of this series.
**I don’t have statistics on whether the videos are viewed in fullscreen mode but I assume it’s a very small percentage.