Bend and snap.
Click images to enlarge.
With over 14 million page views per month, Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist has become one of the most successful style blogs to have emerged in the past few years, capturing the most interestingly attired men and women, boys and girls, in all the major fashion cities around the world. Having published his debut book back in 2009 (an offshoot of the blog, which duly became a best seller) the photographer – whose work is now included in the permanent collection of London’s V&A Museum and Tokyo’s Metropolitan Museum of Photography – is now set to unleash a follow-up publication, The Sartorialist: Closer. This new book sees the photographer continuing to explore the wildly varied looks of his spotted-on-the-streets subjects, but this time in even more far-flung global locations. As Manhattan’s Danziger Projects Gallery hosts an exhibition of Scott’s work to coincide with New York Fashion Week, i-D catches-up with the man himself to find out more.
Were you surprised by the huge success of the first book?
You’re always surprised when something is even more successful then you had hoped. But, I put a lot of thought into what I could do to get the book into the hands of my readers. Things like not making it super expensive, making it small and portable, making it feel almost like a fashion workbook as opposed to a coffee table book. I think that really helped with the success.
So, in which ways is The Sartorialist: Closer different from the first book?
There’s an even greater variety of people and a wider variety of places that we’ve travelled to. We’re continuing to go to New York, Milan and Paris, but also Savannah, Georgia, Morocco, Ireland, Tokyo. There are also about forty exclusive images that were not seen on the blog. I called the second book Closer because I feel that I’m getting closer to how I wanted the The Sartorialist to be. In the beginning I went to the places where people paid me to go, which was mainly fashion week. But now that the site is making money and I can go where I want, I have a chance to add places like Morocco or Peru, somewhere off of the typical fashion map.
What’s your approach when you spot someone you want to take a picture of? Do you have to bond with them or does it require stealth and swiftness?
I like to move quickly, it’s very spontaneous. Once I spot someone I get a sense of my surroundings and how I want to shoot them if they say “yes”, this helps the speed and spontaneity. I’m reasonably good at making someone comfortable quickly, but speed is important because you’re asking for someone’s time. More people know who I am now, so they’re willing to give their time more often, but there’s nothing better then that first flush of when someone’s happy and kind of embarrassed to have their picture taken. That’s a very special time to try and capture.
What qualities do you look for in your subjects?
I react to what I see. I’m never really looking for something. I respond to someone with a visual charisma, whether its physical, the way they’re dressed, how they move or a combination of a lot of different things. I have to be quick at figuring out what I’m responding to and then trying to capture that.
How would you contrast the personal styles of denizens from the major cities that you frequent? Is London ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than New York in terms of style?
As much as everyone wants to think that the internet is shrinking society, each area still very much has it’s own look, natural sensibility and cultural references. What I can get in London is different than Paris, or Milan, or New York. I’m realising now what keeps these places so unique is the weather. When I was recently in Europe for the men’s shows, London was crazy cold and Milan was crazy hot which totally changes the way you dress, especially in the summer when you have such varying types of weather.
Do you sometimes encounter people who simply don’t want to have their photograph taken?
Yes, all the time. I don’t feel like I’m trying hard enough if I’m not getting some no’s. It doesn’t really bother me, it’s part of the territory and it helps me keep pushing.
How do you judge the success of a photograph?
The photographs that are the most successful are the ones that have some type of emotional response. Light is very important. With street photography it’s very tricky to get consistently strong, interesting light. So a photo might be of someone that looks cool but if I wasn’t able to capture the person in a compelling way, I might not run it. There have been other pictures where maybe the clothes weren’t as good but the light was fantastic and it created the right kind of feeling, which at the end of the day is the most important thing.
If i-D readers were thinking of launching their own street style blog, what advice would you offer them?
I wouldn’t rush it. There are way too many people opening blogs, way too young before they really have anything to say or have developed an opinion. People need the time to be able to develop their opinion, and to actually articulate their opinion about fashion and style. It doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, it’s just very rare to find someone young who can do that. So I would say wait and build your opinions before you start sharing them.
Would you ever consider launching a clothing label? After all, The Sartorialist is a well-recognised brand…
I thought about it a couple of years ago. I’ve worked in the fashion business for fifteen years but at the end of the day all I really want to do is photograph. It took me a little while to realise that. I really don’t need to get calls about late button shipments! Going out and shooting everyday is what I love to do.
Text: James Anderson
Photography: Scott Schuman for The Sartorialist: Closer