Friday, November 30, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Glen, Walnut St

Glen, dressed head to toe here in Ralph Lauren, eyed me suspiciously when I stopped him for his photograph and asked me if I had a card. As it turned out, I did. I had a stack of chintzy white business cards made a few months back on cheap, thin paper stock with my Urban Fieldnotes logo on one side, my URL, Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest board and email on the back. I hand them out to everyone I take pictures of. They couldn't look less professional, unless, perhaps, I'd printed them off on my own computer, but they do the trick. They provide all the info one would need to check out their own image on my blog — even if they fail to list the Tumblr and Instagram pages. But I'm never sure how they could convince anyone of my legitimacy as a street style photographer. Anyone could print these. 

Nonetheless, I'm glad they were enough for Glen. I like his matching silk scarf and pocket square, his camel hair sportscoat, and sharp, tortoise shell frames. And I like the unexpected brightness of his pants. They are, indeed, very red. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Pinup Model Jennie Cupcakes

Jennie Cupcakes (not her given name) is a pinup model and the general manager of Bettie Page clothing on Walnut St. You may have detected something to that effect from her pose and general self-presentation. Her dress is from Bettie Page. Her paper bag is from McDonalds. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Francis, Walnut St

Francis' sweater and shoes are both Prada. The wall he's standing in front of was a scaffold a couple of weeks ago. I shot a few pictures in front of it. No time was wasted tagging it. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Tara, Walnut St.

Tara's jacket is from Anthropologie. Her dress is H&M, and her boots Jeffrey Campbell. I got the impression this wasn't her first time posing for a street style photographer.  We bonded over attending The Sartorialist book signing last month.

The guy Tara was with (her boyfriend?) asked me if I was trying to compete with Big Rube Harley, Philly's pre-eminent street style photographer (click here for my interview with Big Rube). I told him I couldn't compete with him if I wanted to. Besides, anthropologists, I'm pretty sure, aren't supposed to be competing with their informants. Then, of course, we compared cameras. He's using a D800 (show off). I've got a D700. His has more pixels. Mine gets better low light performance (ha!). Once you invest in a camera of this calibre, it's almost impossible not to compare yours to other peoples'. It's a sick fixation. I steal a quick glance every time I see someone with a DSLR walking down the street. And in historic Center City Philadelphia, where I most often shoot, that's pretty damn often. I'm trying to get over it. I love my camera, but I can't stop wondering whether the Canon Eos 5D Mark II would have been the better way to go. But then, as the guy with Tara pointed out, I'm already getting some pretty dope depth of field. Now, by the way, is when you are supposed to groan and mutter something under your breath about boys and their toys. Photography, in case you didn't know, is a competitive sport.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Rapper Icon Ebony-Fierce, Walnut St

This look of spoken word artist, rapper, and performer Icon Ebony-Fierce is one part Kente cloth to two parts Salvation Army. You can check out his music on Soundcloud.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Paul, Broad St

Looking over my photos from the last week or so, I was struck by how many images there were of young white women with dyed hair. Time to mix things up. Walking Center City on Black Friday there was no shortage of people to shoot. Paul was the first person to catch my eye in his colorful Paul Smith scarf, J. Crew sweater, Urban Outfitter jeans, and 1901 shoes. And, of course, his incredible moustache. I used to like moustaches in an ironic hipster way. Now I just like them. The sunglasses, by the way, are a pair of cool reading glasses he found and popped the lenses out of. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Hanna, Broad St

Hanna, perhaps to her credit, had nothing whatsoever to say about the brands she was wearing. She shops, she told me, almost exclusively at Salvation Army. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Phoenix, South St

Monday, November 19, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Kelcie, Walnut St

I got back late last night from the annual conference of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the biggest professional society of anthropologists in the world and a frenetic mass of professors, grad students, and unemployed PhDs all vying for their place in an increasingly tight academic market. Over 6,000 of us buzzed through the hallways of the Union Square Hilton in San Francisco, attending panels, screening films, discussing the state of the discipline, and above all, loitering in the lobby, waiting for someone we know — or ought to know — to pass by. I always think the same thing the first time I step through the doors of the conference venue: does the world really need this many anthropologists?

But it was a good time, in any case. I saw lots of old friends and met lots of new people. And I gained a new perspective on the meetings through participating, for the first time, in board and editor meetings. I have a new position in the AAA, having recently taken over as Co-Editor of Visual Anthropology Review, the journal of the Society for Visual Anthropology.

I may have more to say on this subject when I've had more sleep. An anthropology fashion update may very well be in order. In the meantime, here's Kelcie, who I photographed last week on the streets of Philly. She's wearing a scarf made for her by her roommate's grandmother, a scarf, I might add, that has a distinctly anthropological quality about it. We are suckers for the handmade and the homespun, those objects woven through and through with cultural meaning and personal significance, especially when, like this one, it tells us something of the networks of kin that animate someone's life. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Katie, Walnut St

Katie is wearing an Urban Renewal military jacket, a Pendleton skirt, and a pair of Jeffrey Campbell shoes. Plus, she's got a bike and two-toned hair, which makes her a prime candidate for a street style portrait.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

An Unseasonably Warm Day in Philadelphia: Robert and Kseniya, Rittenhouse Square

I saw Robert and Kseniya looking like a 19th Century painting in Rittenhouse Square on an unseasonably warm day early this week. Both are photographers themselves. Robert is wearing H&M jeans and vest, one shirt by Zara, another by Dockers, and a very colorful (you'll have to take my word for it)and cool pair of glasses by Ronit Fürst. Kseniya is wearing a jacket from a friend of her's boutique in Russia. The hat is H&M. We joked about how everyone's clothes are H&M these days. Why not? They take other peoples' designs and make them cheaper.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Does the Fashion World Still Have an Outside? — My Conversation with Yael Sloma of The Streets Walker

Yael Sloma is an Israeli journalist and photographer and the blogger behind The Streets Walker, a street fashion blog documenting the everyday looks of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem's most stylish residents. She's been doing street fashion blogging since 2007, several decades in blogging years, and long enough to have seen some pretty significant changes in the street style blogosphere. We spoke about these changes, and her experiences blogging, via Skype last week. The following is an edited and condensed transcript of our conversation.

Brent: So why don’t you tell me a little bit about how and why you started The Streets Walker.

Yael: It’s a good question, since it’s been such a long time that I’ve been running this blog. I was traveling to London for a few weeks, and I remember the feeling of how surprised I was to see such amazing clothing, so unique and creative, that everyone was wearing. I had been living all my life in Tel Aviv, and when it is close to you, you cannot see it. So, I went to London, and suddenly I saw all of these amazing, creative, interesting people, and I took my camera. I had never taken photographs before, actually. It wasn’t a thing I do. I was writing in a newspaper as a journalist. I was not taking photographs. Anyway, I took my tourist camera, a really simple pocket camera, and I started taking pictures secretly of these people in the street that I was interested in. And it was just as an inspiration for me. I didn’t publish these photos.

When I came back to Israel I decided I would like to do the same sort of thing in the place I live, taking pictures of people that I find interesting or inspiring for me. I understood, however, that I cannot do it secretly anymore, behind the wall, or behind a trash can and stuff like this, and when I did it properly, when I asked people to take their photos, I thought, “Oh yeah, I can publish that, like in a blog or something.” It was casual. I just [started] it one day, and it was like, “Oh shoot! I need a name for the blog. So okay, I walk in the street. It would be funny to call it ‘street walker.’” I didn’t think about it a lot. It was really spontaneous. And I didn’t get the impact street fashion or street fashion blogs might have.

Image by Yael Sloma. 
Brent: When was it that you started the blog?

Yael: That was about five and a half years ago in March, 2007. I remember that after I started my blog, my partner said to me, “Oh I wonder how many people have visited this blog,” and I turned to him and said, “Just me and you.” I didn’t even think about it. Then, one week after, I discovered that there were around 150 people a day looking at the blog. Which today, of course, is nothing, but one week after I started the blog it was for me quite a lot. And I was wondering, “Why would people want to see what I’m doing? Why are they interested in it?” It was quite shocking.

Brent: And what struck you as unique or different about fashion in Tel Aviv, as opposed to London?

Yael: I feel that Tel Aviv is much more easy going, much more natural. Putting a lot of effort into your clothing or make up or whatever — at least in a way that people can see — is not a good thing there, and that contradicts the way they feel about fashion in Paris or London or New York. You won’t see girls in high heels or girls wearing a lot of make up in Tel Aviv. It is not common there, and actually I really like it [that way]. I think it is a much more reasonable way of thinking about fashion.

Image by Yael Sloma. 
Brent: Do you think that street styles have changed a lot since then, or at least, the kinds of blogs that document them have changed a lot since then?

Yael: Yes, both of them.

Brent: In what sense?

Yael: Let’s take it in two parts. First of all, the blogs. For a long time, photographers have been interested in the people in the street. For example, August Sander was taking pictures of people by their occupation at the beginning of the 20th Century.It was part of the New Objectivity movement in photography. If you were to look at them today, you would still find it interesting to examine how different they are in what they wear. The chef was dressed quite differently than the shoemaker, etc, etc. Then later there were a number of photographers who were documenting people in the streets of New York. It’s only when we come to the last ten years or so, for example, with Fruits[in 2001] and Hel Looks [started in 2005], that it starts to be much more about unique people, creative things, crazy combinations, and colorful outfits.

And today, I think the most successful blogs have a completely different attitude towards street fashion. It is more about editors and fashion journalists, and models off duty, and what these kinds of people, who are connected to the industry, are wearing in their daily life.

Image by Yael Sloma.
Brent: Where do you feel that your own blog has gone in regards to that? Are you trying to stay true to the older model of street style or is it sort of joining in on the street fashion front?

Yael: I hope none of those, actually. My interest is in people in the streets. Not necessarily ones that are connected to the fashion industry. People that I find are dressed nicely, but not in too extravagant a way. Actually, I’m not interested in fashion, in that sense, but only in the kind that is really simple, like when they take a pair of black paints and a white T-shirt and make it good. When they have a unique posture, or something that is really simple but makes them a bit sharper. But I’m not interested in this hugely avant garde point of view about fashion.

Image by Yael Sloma. 
Brent: So kind of a documentary perspective on what people are actually wearing out there?

Yael: Yes, but the ones that I describe as good examples.

Brent: What do you hope your readers get out of looking at your blog?

Yael: Inspiration and confidence. Since I feel that nowadays the discussion about fashion is not actually about fashion but about trends. It is about what is necessary to have this season, what is this season’s colors and fits and if this season is about this or about that, and then encouraging you to go out and buy those things. And in my opinion, this is not fashion. Fashion is the daily battle to be innovative with your quite small wardrobe. And I hope that I bring people to be satisfied with the clothing they have, to have a smart and small wardrobe that will be very useful, and to have their own specific individual taste, rather than chasing after this season’s trends.

Image by Yael Sloma. 
Brent: So when you are out on the streets looking for people to shoot, do you have in your mind a set of things that you’re looking for? How do you determine whether someone’s right for your blog?

Yael: I don’t know. I don’t determine these things [in advance]. It’s only when I see someone that I know he is right.  Only afterwards can I try to understand why I found him interesting.  Perhaps the clothes are quite classic, and they sit well, and there is a good combination of colors and fabrics, and a good fit, and it’s also about the atmosphere. How this person is walking. How he is looking. I really feel that fashion is just about how you represent yourself. And you don’t represent yourself only by clothing, but also by your body language.

Image by Yael Sloma 
Brent: Do you think you notice body language before you notice what people are wearing?

Yael: Many times I do. I find it many times that what people are wearing is okay, but the way they hold their body, the way they smoke their cigarette or drink their coffee, or just walk the street, or even stand at the traffic light, is so chic. And I take their photo, and it is about that.

Image by Yael Sloma. 
Brent: And how often would you say that people turn you down?

Yael: It depends on which city, or where inside a city. For example, until two months ago, I was living in Jerusalem, and over there, when I was taking photographs in the area where I study, almost no one, maybe one percent, would say no. But if I would ask it in the other neighborhoods of the city, like the city center, it would happen. Or here — I’m living in Frankfurt for a few months — more people turn me down, for example, than they do in Berlin. In Berlin I don’t think anyone has ever said no.

Brent: Have you noticed any change since you’ve been doing this in people turning you down? I mean, I imagine in 2007 fewer people were aware of what a street style blog was, right?

Yael: Yes. And now maybe they are too aware. People are more aware of the fact that they might be documented, not only by street fashion photographers, but also for Facebook, as if it were the proof that they are alive and having fun or whatever. So people expect that more, and prepare for that more.

Image by Yael Sloma.
Brent: So is it getting more difficult to get candid pictures of people then?

Yael: I feel maybe it is less real. But it might only be my disappointment at the way things have developed. I am disappointed. I won’t tell you that I’m not. I had so many hopes that things would develop differently. And not in a manner of my work or my career, in the manner of my ideology, and the way I thought about street fashion in the beginning.

Brent: So how are you feeling about street fashion these days?

Yael: Just another part of the fashion industry. When I began the blog I thought that it would give another point of view about fashion, a more relaxed and more reasonable one, in my opinion, and a more positive one, and in the end, I don’t feel that it happened, not in the way I hoped it would. Street fashion is now just a part of magazines and the industry.  There are good aspects of it. I won’t say there aren’t. But it is completely inside of it now. We don’t have the outside point of view anymore.

Image by Yael Sloma. 
Brent: And do you feel that you too have become part of the fashion industry through this?

Yael: Yes and no. I’ve been working for fashion magazines, and yes I’ve been to fashion shows and presentations, but I do hope to stay somehow out of it. I hope to have a bit of an outsider look on how people are dressed. I don’t think it would be healthy for my blog to have more of an insider point of view.

Brent: Do you think that outsider point of view that you represent is in fact appealing to the fashion industry itself? Is that part of the appeal of street style bloggers?

Yael: Of course, and because of that they became insiders. Therefore, it is self-problematic.

Brent: That exact issue is one at the crux of my research, this navigating of the insider-outsider position.

Yael: Yeah, it is just part of the old capitalistic world. We have no chance to rebel anymore, since any rebellion will be so sexy that someone will just appropriate it. So this is what happened also here.

Image by Yael Sloma. 
Brent: Speaking of capitalism, what are your policies about potential sponsors or advertisers on your blog.

Yael: Basically, it is really clear in my opinion. If there is advertisement, it shouldn’t be part of the content. There is no way I would write a sponsored post. If it is an advertisement, it is in the right column or in between the post in a way that it will be clear that this is advertisement and this is not. Just as it is in newspapers. I am, after all, still a journalist.

Brent: Do you think blogging impacted your career as a journalist in any way?

Yael: Yes. I was a reporter more of news, politics, army, and stuff like that. I was Editor in the news section of the website of the newspaper Maariv, so I was really into news and politics, and well, my blog is quite a different subject. So suddenly in addition to my work as an editor of news, I started writing about fashion and taking photographs of people, and afterwards I continued writing about design and culture, so it’s a bit shifted my interest when it comes to journalism, and also, in addition to the fact that I write, I started taking photos.

Image by Yael Sloma. 
Brent: What kind of camera are you using these days?

Yael: Canon Eos 5D Mark II.

Brent: Is there a preferred lens you tend to use?

Yael: 50mm fix.

Brent: Seems like that’s a relatively common combination. A good one.

Yael: Yeah, I think it’s the most objective [one]. 50mm fixed gives you the closest perspective to the way you see in reality. And when it comes to street fashion, one of the purposes is to look objective, like it’s happened. It was. It was not a fashion production, an editorial in Vogue or something. Everything is real. And maybe the 50mm allows this kind of feeling, that it is real. It is in reality.

Image by Yael Sloma.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Rachael, Off 16th St

Friday, November 9, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Taylor, Spruce St


I had to follow Taylor for like five blocks before finally catching up to her. Sometimes the line between street style photographer and stalker is a little blurrier than I might like to think.

Taylor is wearing a jacket by Juicy Couture, a sweater by Theory, jeans from J Brand, and Tory Burch shoes. 

Notice I have stopped putting brand names in the post titles. It just felt too cheap and gross. Now they're confined to the content and labels, where they can feign neutrality. I have rendered them data.

And for you camera nerds out there, notice I have closed the aperture a bit (from around 1.4-1.8 to 2.2-2.5), allowing for a bit deeper of a depth of field. I wanted to show more of the background and be more than a one trick pony. I'm still a fan of the blur, but I'm attempting moderation.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Shakari in an Upcycled Rockers Closet Jacket, Walnut St

Shakari's jacket comes from Rockers Closet, a "DIY Thrift" shop on 4th St in South Philly that takes donated old clothes and upcycles them into fashion. The scarf was brought back by a friend on a trip to Guatemala. The boots are a gift from her mom, and neither Shakari nor her mom have been able to figure out what brand is attached to them. The pants, like everyone else's these days, are Zara.

I'm liking this whole asking people what they're wearing thing. People have all sorts of interesting tidbits to tell about the things they put on. We adorn our bodies in the stories of our lives. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Philadelphia Street Style: Sofia, 17th St

My style radar, I've noticed, doesn't work as well in the fall. It gets mixed signals and an overload of messages. The more fashionable among us cover up many of their most ostentatious attributes when it gets cold out. And the less fashionable put on coats, pop their collars, spruce up their outfits with scarves and caps, take on, in other words, many of the embellishments one might otherwise associate with looking cool. There is a kind of equalizing that happens in the autumn, a balancing of opposites. You have to get pretty close to people to get some sense of how awesome they're going to look on camera. So I have to remind myself of a lesson I've learned dozens of times over while doing this project: don't pay too much attention to the clothes. Concentrate, instead, on body language, posture, and walk. I do some of that. But I also get easily seduced by color. You see so little of it this time of year that it really stands out when you do. That's what first caught my eye about Sofia.

Sofia has spent much of her life abroad, and the hat she picked up from a flea market in Nepal. It has something of a Himalayan feel to it. The pants come from an equally international, though decidedly less regionally specific, source: Zara. The sweater is vintage via Buffalo Exchange. The boots are Michael Kors. And the peacoat, well, we couldn't quite figure that out, even after looking at the tag.    

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Philly Style Blogger Profile: Shana Draugelis, Ain't No Mom Jeans

Name: Shana Draugelis
Blog: Ain't No Mom Jeans
Age: 36
Hometown: Marquette, Michigan
Based In: Ardmore, Pennsylvania 
Day Job: Full-time mom to two boys, part-time crazy smart engineer, doing stuff you wouldn't understand anyway.
What She's Listening to These Days: "You mean besides Elmo Sings?" Fun. This mix CD her kids like to dance to that has Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Beyonce, and a melange of today's Top-40 hits on it. Oh, and she just discovered dubstep. Life will never be the same.
Style Influences: Kate Moss, Siena Miller. "Both make my heart go pitter patter."

Shana started blogging after the birth of her first child, Raines. She had been into fashion and style for a long time, but being a mom messed with everything. She had no time, got no sleep, and had to chuck most of the stuff in her closet. And what she had left got rapidly covered in food, breast milk, and god knows what else. The blog became her personal documentation of her journey back into fashion. She now pulls in some 184,000 pageviews a month. When she recommends an item of clothing to her readers, it tends to sell out. Now if only she could find a way to make the blog profitable. She'd probably have to switch to menswear for that.  

Shana's ring is by Lindsay Bloom, her earrings (below) purchased on Etsy. Her purse is a hand-me-down from her mom. The shirt is Chloé. The cape is by Madewell. "To verify my hipster credentials," she says, tongue firmly in cheek.

In addition to advice, anecdotes, and product reviews, a good portion of Shana's blog is mom street style. Unlike me, however, she doesn't go out specifically to find people to shoot. She's a mom, a blogger, and an engineer, for Christ's sake. She doesn't have that kind of time. So she stops other moms running mom errands while she's out running mom errands herself. Shana takes the shots as quickly as she can on her iPhone 4S, before both moms' kids make a break for it.

Shana's jeans are J Brand "Love Story." Her shoes, hidden beneath the flare, are Nine West. I am resisting the urge to end this post with a gratuitous reference to her blog's name. Let's just say, these do not appear to be mom jeans that she's wearing.