Monday, December 31, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Chris, off 16th St

Chris is a graphic designer, illustrator, and art director. You can check out his stuff and/or contact him for design work at

These alley shots are, I have to admit, in a sense staged. I actually found him walking down Walnut St, but it was so crowded we moved to the alleyway. I love these Center City alleys for shooting. They look like a suburban Californian's archetype of an East Coast big city landscape. But waiting for cool people to pass while standing in front of them doesn't work out as often as I would like. I usually give up and head to higher density areas like Walnut or Broad St. Plus, I'm always a little self-conscious about making my subjects stand too long in a place that smells like trash.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Luci, Walnut St

This, Luci told me, is what she looks like on an off-day. She almost didn't even let me take these. But I assured her that she was the coolest  looking person I'd seen in the last two hours of standing out on the streets of Center City. I suggested I take the pictures and she could tell me afterwards if she could live with them. She could. Here they are.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: JL of Blood Milk Jewelry, Bainbridge St

JL makes handcrafted occult-themed jewelry under the name Blood Milk ("supernatural jewels for surrealist darlings"). Check out her stuff at, or visit her blog at I spotted her dressed like a Russian villainess from a James Bond film in front of a second-hand book shop on Bainbridge St. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Skateboarder in Black, Broad St

Friday, December 21, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Aaron, Broad St

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Lady London, South St

I saw Lady London (not her given name) from some two blocks away and knew I wanted to photograph her well before I could even make out what she was wearing. And what she's wearing, for the record, is a bright red coat from Asos, a sweater from H&M (see my observation in my last post), a vintage reproduction dress and petticoat, and a vintage bag. She was with Elisabeth, incidentally, from the last post. They were the most striking pair I've seen walking down the street in quite some time. Lady London, in case you were wondering, is her modeling name.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Elisabeth, South St

When I introduced myself and asked to take Elisabeth's picture she said "Oh, I love Urban Fieldnotes!" making this the first and only time someone has told me any such thing out on the streets. She's wearing a vintage Pegasus dress, shoes by Sam Edelman, a vintage purse, a French Cuff jacket (though none of us had ever heard of such a brand), and a belt by H&M, lending further evidence to my hypothesis that nearly everyone on the streets of Philly is wearing an item from H&M at any given time. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Donna, Walnut St

Donna has pieced together the items in this outfit from various vintage stores, but mainly Philly's own Greene Street Consignment. I'm liking the mix of patterns and colors here and the funky stripes on her coat. She gets a lot of compliments on the coat, she says.

In related news, I did an interview via Skype with Alkistis Tsitouri of the LA-based blog Streetgeist a few days ago. You'll hopefully see the results here in the next week. After the interview, I was inspired to try my hand at her brand of "straight up" street style pics in the grand tradition of Hel Looks or i-D and The Face, where the subject, perfectly centered in the frame, holds their arms flatly at their side, keeps a blank expression on their face, and stares straight at the camera. It's a classic, documentary mode of photography. The subject is photographed almost as a specimen, as if their clothes were being documented and archived for the sake of future generations. It's meant to be a naturalistic mode of representation, no frills, no tricks. But when I tried the method while out shooting the other day, I found that it's actually rather difficult to get people to pose that way. All three people I photographed resisted my efforts. No one wanted to hold their arms at their side. No one could help smiling, at least part of the time. It's funny how unnatural such "natural" forms of documentation turn out to be. In the end, I let my subjects just do what they wanted to do. That's been my method from the beginning: give them very little direction and see what they do with it. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Camila, Walnut and Broad

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Impossibility of Distance #2: New Reflections on Street Style Blogging

Months ago, longtime readers of Urban Fieldnotes may recall, just two weeks after I started this blog/research project, I staged my own streetstyle intervention. I had become obsessed with my blog's pageviews, fixated on other peoples' appreciation of what I was posting, and unable to turn off my critical assessment of every person's style who walked past me, whether I had my camera with me or not. It was driving me a little bit batty. I was losing critical distance. And of course, I found myself unable to tell whether I was blogging to conduct research or researching for the sake of having a blog. So, I took a step back, gave myself permission not to hit the pavement every single day in search of stylish people. I mixed up my content between photos, interviews, and reflections. I threw in more references to academic materials, pretended somehow that that proved I was a "real" researcher. 

Well, that was a long time ago now. I've become much more experienced at the blogging game and more efficient at producing content. I've gotten better at compartmentalizing as well. I don't tend to think about what people are wearing anymore unless I have my camera in hand. Plus, I've grown comfortable with the fact that I am both a researcher and a blogger. I don't get caught up worrying about the distinction.I'm also getting much better at controlling my camera. I shoot exclusively in manual mode now, and it requires less and less attention to do so. And I don't get nervous before I go out for shoots. It's just what I do. I still take as many (or more) pictures as ever. I just think about it less.

But still, the more things change the more they stay the same. I continue to obsess over my pageviews, though I get far more of them now (see the screen shot below). In fact, like any addict, the more I get the more I seem to need. I may not shoot street style every day of the week anymore (just 1-3 times per week), but I still post every weekday, barring some unforeseen event. I just can't stand watching those numbers drop, as happens when I wait too long between posts. 

It's time to face facts: I have let my blogging dictate too much of my schedule lately. I've had an insane number of deadlines in the past few weeks, with articles to revise, conferences to attend, proofs to correct, and papers to grade. And I've been gradually taking over as Co-Editor of a major academic journal, Visual Anthropology Review. I simply do not have enough time in the week to post five times. It's time to shift to a reduced load, at least for the next few months. I will be posting only 3 times a week. As far as I can figure, that's still around two times more per week than the average street style blogger, so it's not exactly slacking off. But even as I write that I am experiencing some regret. How am I going to get my fix the other 4 days of the week?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Christopher, Pine St

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Melissa, Baxter, and Breezy on Pine St

Melissa is wearing a Joyce Leslie dress ("I usually don't like their stuff but this one was cool"), Dr. Martens boots, and a pair of Urban Outfitters tights shredded by "these little bastards." I probably should have inquired about Breezy's T-shirt as well. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Tymbre, Walnut St

Tymbre is wearing a Keith Haring cap from Obey, a thrifted camouflage jacket, a shirt by Club Monaco, a watch by Michael KorsForever 21 jeans, and boots by Ecote. Rather than asking people the specific brands they wear, lately I've been saying simply "Tell me about what you're wearing." Most people interpret this as "What brands are you wearing?" They've read street style blogs. They know the drill. But not everyone. Sometimes I get stories about friends' trips to Guatemala, childhoods in Nepal, and the grandparents of roommates. Sometimes I get impassioned tales of thrift store adventures. And sometimes I get very little. Not everyone, after all, has anything to say about their clothes. 

It's also interesting to see how readily people are able to recount the details of the items they're wearing. Some people could probably rattle them off in their sleep. Others have to concentrate intently, or actually look at the labels to find out. I'm not sure what that says about them, but I'm sure it says something. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Seasonal Photographic Disorder: On the Late Fall Street Style Blogger Blues

Emily, wearing a vintage suede and faux fur coat on a smoking break from Urban Outfitters.  
Last week, as temperatures dropped, and Philadelphians bundled up, all I wanted to do was hibernate. I wanted to sit in my warm living room with a bottle of Scotch and wrap myself in a blanket for the next three months.  And yet there I was, camera in hand, approaching stylish people on Walnut St, who would also rather have been somewhere else. There was a collective glum in Center City. You could feel it oozing from the sidewalks. The alleyways felt narrower. The streets felt heavier, like they could collapse in at any moment. I had two people turn me down for photos, and these days, that almost never happens. But people just don't want to be captured in these dour moments. And they would also rather not have to stop and talk to some dude with a camera. It would take too long to warm up again. 

It's a longstanding precept of anthropology that in order to really get to know the people you're studying, you need to spend at least a year with them, living through the seasonal changes they endure, experiencing the shifting rhythms of their daily lives. No doubt the same principle applies to street style blogging. You don't really know what street style blogging is like until you've shot style through a winter. Frankly, I'm not sure how other bloggers do it. It gets dark so much earlier. There's far less time in the day to go out. I've had to stop shooting by 4pm, because with skyscrapers all around, Center City's light turns utterly flat by then. My classes, however, don't let out until 2pm, so that poses something of a problem right there. When you combine the time crunch with the greater effort to find willing subjects, the predicament worsens. Plus, it seems rather obvious, but people don't care quite as much about how they look in the winter. Maslow's hierarchy of needs kicks in. You can only worry so much about fashion when you're struggling just to keep warm. My hope is that people eventually stop feeling the cold so much, start taking stylistic risks again, and that shooting street style goes more or less back to normal.

And there is some hope on the horizon. The next couple of days are forecast to be unseasonably warm. I will be out there with my camera to take advantage.