Here are some excerpts from my recent Skype interview with Dana Landon of Seattle's premier street style blog, It's My Darlin'.
B: So, when did you start blogging and why?
D: I started my blog in the fall of 2008. I was using a lot of blogs for inspiration for my wedding, and I [thought], “I should start one of these.” If you go and look at the beginning of my blog, it’s all just pictures from other websites, and it wasn’t intended to be anything that anyone looked at. It was just something for me to store photos on for inspiration – [this was] before Pinterest’s time. I had always wanted to stop and ask people for photos but at some point I [decided] “You know what, I’m just going to do this.” And I started stopping people for photos.
B: Was it difficult at all for you to overcome the nerves at first [of going out and asking people to take their picture]?
D: That was hard at first. It really didn’t take long, though. I think I had mentioned to you that maybe after about three or four people I kind of got [fearless] about it. I was just like, “Oh, I’ll ask anybody.” I would say that in the beginning I mostly asked girls my age. I don’t know why I was afraid to ask boys. I guess I was afraid that if they weren’t interested in fashion then they would be freaked out by the whole concept of it, because I think that when I was doing it, it wasn’t quite as common. It was a little weirder to be asking people, because they weren’t super familiar with what [a fashion blog] was. It’s getting to the point now where I don’t have to explain to people, because when I say my blog name, they’re aware of it. So they’re just like, “Oh, I know what you’re doing. That’s fine.” And they pose, and it’s great. But when I first started, they’d say “Street style what?” And I’d have to explain what it was and bring up The Sartorialist, and they wouldn’t even have heard of him, and it was difficult to explain at first. “Can I take your photo and put in on the internet please?!”
B: Yeah, that was back in the [era where people were panicked] about internet privacy and all that.
D: Yeah. I was contacted by the Seattle Times recently and they want to do a weekly feature in the Sunday paper with my photos. They’re going to pull a photo every week from my website, and if they use one of my photos they need the first and last name and the neighborhood the person lives in. And I [thought], “I don’t think people are going to be up for that, but I’ll try.” And I’ve been asking people for the last two weeks, and everyone I’ve asked has been like, “I don’t care!”
B: That’s kind of amazing in a way. Yeah, I’ve had a couple of people turn me down, but I haven’t had a single person afraid to give me their name. But I’m making them to sign photo release forms. Do you ask people to sign photo release forms?
D: I don’t. I try to keep it as simple as possible. I did a little bit of research prior to doing this and legally there’s no reason why I have to. If you’re out on the street, you’re public domain for photography, and no one can sue you for taking their photo.
B: Yeah, I would frankly love not to. It would make my life a lot easier, but no one has been weird about it. I think the first time I asked people I was weird about it, but they weren’t, and I immediately got over it. I think it actually lent a kind of strange sort of legitimacy to what I was doing. Like, actually, “oh this must be alright.” Which is not how I would respond to it, frankly.
D: I know! That is the weirdest part about this blog. I would say “no” if I asked me. I would not want my photo taken and put on the Internet. I’m not involved that much in the whole Internet world. I’ve been behind a little on that. So for me it’s still really weird putting personal things online, but, yeah, people are really into it.
B: Some of it’s probably generational. You made the comment that you started out at first only wanting to take pictures of girls, and I had something similar, starting out only feeling comfortable going up to guys. I didn’t think they’d be weird about the fashion thing, but because I figured they probably would assume I wasn’t hitting on them.
D: Yeah, that’s a good point. That would be hard as a guy to not come across as like “Hey! Can I take your photo?” [delivered in a leering dude voice]
B: Yeah and there’s only so many extremes I’m gonna take following a girl down the street.
D: Yeah, that’s a good point, ‘cause I do a lot of that, creepy following of people trying to catch up to them. Some of them must be thinking, “Who is this person that’s gaining on me? Why are they walking so fast?”
B: So, do you have a technique for approaching people?
D: I do. I say the same thing every time: “Would you mind if I take a photo for my fashion blog?” I don’t say my name. I don’t say what my blog is. Now it’s not a problem, because they’ll say immediately, “Oh, It’s my Darlin’?” and I’ll say, “yeah.” But when I first [did this] that’s when the conversation would go “Your what?” and I’d have to explain and say, “Oh, my name’s Dana, and I do [this and that].” But I try to keep it real short and sweet. I think the problem is, at least here in Seattle, there’s Green Peace, Red Cross, Planned Parenthood, all those people, on every single corner, so you’re constantly dodging these unwanted conversations. So I try to get that in immediately. [And] as soon as they hear fashion blog they [say] “Yes!!”
B: I posted about this guy Andy the other day. He told me that when he goes to New York these days he dresses differently, because he wants to be photographed by fashion bloggers.
D: Yes! That’s so true! I have a friend who lives in New York, and he said the exact same thing. He said that in the subway and certain parts of town it’s like being at a runway show. Everyone is dressed for fashion photographers. And that’s so funny, because that does not exist here.
B: No, it doesn’t exist in Philly either. Philly is not an incredibly stylish town. It almost has it as a point of pride not to be a stylish town. It’s a good working class, post-industrial kind of city. But there are parts of town that are decidedly artsy or hipster, and I tend to have more luck with those areas. But expecting to be able to go to any street in Philadelphia and expect to find stylish people is not such a likelihood…So how often do you end up taking pictures that you don’t use?
D: It’s so rare, because I hate doing that. I will actually pass up pictures where I’m questioning whether I want them or not. I don’t want to take them and then not use them. I feel badly doing that, because people get excited. So, people will pass me, and I’ll be [thinking], “Ooh do I want it? Do I not want it?” And I’m like, ah, too late!” Waited too long.
B: So do you have a hard time turning it off, then, when you’re not out taking pictures?
D: Yes. I really do. Actually I have my camera with me almost all the time, unless it’s a downpour or unless I’m going out to dinner with my husband or something, and I leave my camera at home. Because that is the only way for me to shut it off. I have [learned how], over time, to be able to stop doing that [if my camera’s not with me]. But if I have my camera in my bag, I’m the worst. My friends hate it. I’ll be hanging out with them and they’re telling me a story, and I [say] “Ugh, I gotta go!” I totally interrupt them and what they’re saying, and I run after somebody. It’s constant. And I’ll stop people in the grocery store. I will stop people everywhere. I’m totally shameless.
B: Do you, given that that’s the case, go out specifically to shoot much? Or are you able to get what you need just being out and about?
D:I love walking, so it’s kind of hard to say. I don’t necessarily get dressed up and then go out and find people. I don’t do that. But I do walk a lot more than I used to, intentionally knowing that I’ll probably end up running into people. So, I’ll take really long routes to get home, or instead of taking a bus to another neighborhood I’ll walk there, even though it takes an hour, just because I figure I’ll probably come across a few fun photos.
B: Do you have any idea who reads your blog?
D: I have a solid group of people that I know read it, because they comment, and we email each other, and we talk on Facebook, but outside of that, I don’t know, and it’s really weird. I think I mentioned this in my comment today, I’m super confused about that whole thing, because on my site meter I get maybe 1,000-2,000 people a day. But that’s really low in the fashion blogging world. That’s very very low. And I can’t figure it out, because every single person that I stop [tells me] “I read that every day.” And think, “[then] why are my numbers so low?” I don’t get it!
B: So how long did it take you to build up to 1 or 2,000 pageviews a day?
D: I would say that within the first year I was getting [around] a hundred a day. And it stayed at that for a really long time. And then my second year of blogging, there’s a local neighborhood website that’s kind of a news website, and they asked me to start doing a feature of my work every week on their website. Once I started doing that, I started getting [around] 300 a day. Then I started getting featured on New York Magazine, [which] uses one of my photos every Friday. And so on Fridays, I get a lot of hits. I get [around] 2,000. And then some days I’ll get [around] 350, and other days my average [will be] about 500-1,000. But then some days there’s a big spike. That [, however,] didn’t start happening until the last year and a half or so.
B: You really have to stick it out.
D: You either have to stick it out, or you just have to shamelessly plug. I chose the sticking it out.
B: Are you friends with a number of other bloggers? Do you feel like part of a blogging community?
D: Yeah, a little bit. I guess I have a hard time with that, because, [as] I keep bringing up, there’s this weird community where everyone [is just] trying to promote themselves, so I have a hard time telling “Is this mutual? Do you really want to be chatting? Or are you just trying to get me to put your blog on my list of blogs on my site?
B: Do you see yourself doing this blog for a long time?
D: Yeah. I think I’ll just do it until I don’t like it anymore, and that hasn’t happened yet. I really enjoy it. I like meeting the people that I take photos of, and I like the act of taking photos, because as you’re seeing, no one minds, so it’s really fun. You get all these free subjects and you just get to practice your photography. And I also really like watching how the trends are changing. It is a little discouraging, though [at times]. Sometimes I feel like nothing’s happening with it. Sometimes [I’ll think], “Am I even talking to anyone?” But then, like I said, everyone knows what it is when I stop them. I think it’s the fact that there’s no correspondence that makes me feel like no one’s reading it, but I’m sure that people are.