Friday, June 28, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Sonniyah, Walnut St

Sonniyah's clothes are mostly thrifted, and she didn't know the brand names of any of them, except for the pants. They are Hot Topic. "I love Hot Topic," she told me. I haven't heard anyone say that in a long time. She describes her style as "alternative," and says she listens mostly to rock bands, including Sleeping with Sirens. I've never heard of them, but I told her I'd check them out. I haven't done that yet. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On the Way to Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, New York

red pants fur hat coat

Dee of Racked NY and I caught her while running from Lincoln Center down to the Roseland Ballroom for Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti. I love how bold and bright her pants are in this shot.  

So When Can I, Like, Stop Using Facebook Already?

I'm guessing I'm not the only blogger whose seen the utility of Facebook decrease substantially in the last few months. My updates get fewer "likes" than they used to. Fewer people click through to my blog. The rate of new page likes has slowed considerably as well. Overall, Facebook is just not the crucial promotional medium it once was.

So why is this happening? Well, there are likely several factors. For one, there seems to be a swelling tide of Facebook ennui. People just don't enjoy using it the way they used to. Various social media polls have consistently shown that while more people are using Facebook than ever, they are also more and more likely to rate it as their least favorite social media platform. Facebook is simultaneously the most used and despised social media website. Young people report feeling like they have no choice but to use Facebook. It is a social obligation. It is that friend you can never exactly remember why you hang out with. People like using Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest, but they feel stuck using Facebook. 

I can't blame people for feeling that way. I do too. I mean, it's hard enough to get myself to even look at Facebook these days, let alone post anything to it. More and more, Facebook feels like yesterday's news, like your grandparents' social media. Or perhaps more accurately, it feels like the primary advertising strategy of that guy you kinda knew in 6th grade. Personal status updates have taken a backseat to self-branding initiatives. Facebook is a bulletin board full of business cards. I stopped posting anything personal on Facebook more than a year ago. 

At the same time however, Facebook has decided to shoot itself in its foot by minimizing this very bulletin board function. Recently, Facebook decided to separate out its Pages Feed from its ordinary Newsfeed. This means far fewer users see the average promotional blog post than before. And this wasn't Facebook's first blow to the blogeratti. Some months back Facebook made the decision to only post updates in their users' timelines from pages they had actually opted in to receiving. If they hadn't taken that additional step, they simply stopped receiving updates. I, like many bloggers, saw the reach of my page updates go from hundreds to dozens overnight. 

And why would Facebook do this? Why would they want to limit the exposure of active Facebook pages? Revenue, of course. Facebook now offers bloggers, and any other Pages users, constant opportunities to "promote [their] page" and "increase their likes" for a fee.I suppose I can't entirely hold this against them. Facebook obviously needs to make its investors happy. But it's clearly less concerned with making its users happy. And this, predictably, is leading to some dissension in the ranks. 

How long can Facebook possibly remain viable as a business or as a communicational tool with so many people hating using it? How long can it remain indispensable when so many people fantasize about dispensing with it? And how long can it remain relevant to bloggers when it's actively working to make itself less useful to them?

So, now, here are my questions for you: is it still worth posting blog updates on Facebook? And are you still posting them on Facebook? Or are other platforms beginning to take its place for you? Are you more an Instagram or Tumblr person these days? Perhaps Pinterest or Twitter? Vine? Is using Facebook going to become a liability one of these days? Is it going to start counting against bloggers? Or are we all stuck using Facebook now matter how much we hate doing so? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Ashley, Walnut St

American Apparel short shorts tattoos

Ashley works for American Apparel, and all of the clothes she's wearing in this shot come from there. When I asked her how she would describe her style she drew a blank, as most of us probably would. "This is hard," she said. "I know," I agreed. Finally, she told me that although she's not from California, she'd describe her style as "Cali summer fun." "I am from California," I told her, though I hope she didn't take this as some kind of proprietary claim over Cali summer fun. I always sort of skipped over the summer fun part of California living anyway. As for her musical taste, it runs towards surf rock, she told me, with a little lo-fi thrown in. "Like, '60s surf rock?" I asked. "Yeah, and some modern stuff too," she replied. I told her to check out the Indonesian surf rock band The Southern Beach Terror, some friends of mine from Yogyakarta.You should too. They're on SoundCloud.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Crystal, Chestnut St

Crystal is wearing pants by Forever 21, a T-shirt from Urban Outfitters,and shoes by Vans. She describes her style — and I'm sensing a generational/cultural theme here — as "whatever I like." Her musical tastes run to old school punk, "like Black Flag." 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Jared Michael Lowe, 15th St

Some of you may remember that I profiled Jared Michael Lowe, the writer, journalist, and blogger behind Lowefactor, back in July. You can read it here. I ran into him this time on 15th St. He's wearing a hat by Eugenia Kim, an orca shirt by Hawkings and McGill, shorts by H&M, shoes by Steven Madden, and sunglasses by American Apparel

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Jackie, 16th St

Jackie wasn't sure what brands she was wearing today, but she describes her style, like Kelsey a couple days back, as "eclectic." "Sometimes preppy," she went on to say, "sometimes hipster." As for her musical preference, that was a much more clear-cut case: "classic rock." "Just classic rock?" I asked. "Well, I like other things too," she said. "But mainly classic rock?" I prodded further. "Yeah," she responded.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Andy Chen, Co-Founder of

Andy's T-shirt may tell you everything you need to know about Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Kelsey, Sydenham St

Kelsey is a dancer who posts her daily style pics on Instagram. You can follow her at @ivanadance. Her top and pants are both Forever 21. Her shoes are from Target. The bag comes from somewhere in Spain. She picked it up on a trip over there. 

Shooting today I decided to increase the number of questions I ask people, and hence, add to the number of things I can consider "data" in this project. I've been curious for a while about what people have to say about their own style, as well as whether or not there is still any kind of observable correlation between what people wear and what kinds of music they listen to. So I asked Kelsey how she would describe her style. "Eclectic," she said, and then added "whatever I like." As for her musical taste? She described it as eclectic as well, anything from "Vampire Weekend to that popular song where the guy says 'hey hey hey." I have no idea what that song is but if you guys do, let me know. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Kaile, Walnut St

I read an Independent Fashion Blogger post the other day that complained that too many street style shots are taken from the wrong angle, with the photographer either shooting their subjects straight on or looking down at them, giving, in the process, an undue amount of focus to the concrete they're standing on. The writer suggested that photographers ought to be crouched down, making sure that the horizon lines of their image never goes above the waistline of the subject. It elongates the legs of their subjects, and minimizes the presence of the sidewalk. So that's what I did in this image. Does it make a huge difference? I'm not sure. I like the angle just fine. And I think it's flattering to Kaile. But sometimes I like my concrete to dominate my image. What's street style without a street?

Kaile is wearing all H&M in these shots. Amazing how versatile that damn brand is.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Outside the Commes des Garçons store, 22nd St, New York

Usually when I frame a picture, I try to make the subject pop out of the background. I went for the opposite approach on this one. Although this photo was technically taken "on the street" in New York, don't for a minute believe that this woman just happened to be dressed this way — in multiple animal prints and fur — on an average day in February. This was shot, like many so-called "street style" pics of certain famous bloggers, down the street from a runway show at New York Fashion Week. This shot, in fact, was taken as Reed Krakoff was letting out. I don't know if this is stacking the decks, but whether it gets to count as genuine street style is another question.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On the Street...15th St, Philadelphia

I stole the title of this post, and its horizontal alignment, from The Sartorialist. Horizontal, in case you hadn't noticed, is all the rage. It's the new vertical. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bloggers Outside Diesel Black Gold, Pier 57, New York

Monday, June 10, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Dean, Rittenhouse Square

Friday, June 7, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Elle, Chestnut St

I found Elle just as I was on my way to the subway to head home. It had not been a good day for shooting street style. It was hot. People were in more casual clothes than usual. And I was in something of a funk. A self-imposed funk at that. I'd started to wonder again what it was I was looking for in my subjects. Bad idea. Once you start thinking on a street style shoot, the chattering takes over, gradually edging out instinct. Pretty soon all that's left is chatter. Was I looking for fashionable people for my blog? Edgy people? People in spritely summery attire? Was I looking for people who represent the carefully cultivated brand identity of Urban Fieldnotes? And what is that again? Once you start thinking on a street style shoot you can no longer make decisions. 

And then it came to me, an epiphany. I was looking for looks that I like. That's all. Nothing more complex than that. I didn't have to be consistent in what I was after. My likes, after all, are not consistent. The only criteria I had to use was whether or not I liked someone's look. It felt like a great weight had been lifted.

But what do I like again? It seems like a simple enough question, but when you look directly at your likes, they seem to disappear. And what does it even mean to like something? Is it to have an affinity towards something? To resonate with something? To get pleasure out of something? To desire something? Surely I take pictures of plenty of outfits I wouldn't want to own and plenty of people I'm not attracted to as such. So this whole just having to like someone's look thing wasn't working either. Chatter. Chatter. Chatter.

I let go of the liking rule too and went back to my old faithful. I had to feel some kind of immediate reaction to someone, some unnamable pull. But as I leaned against the concrete walls of Walnut St, sweating profusely, practically melting into the sidewalk, my instincts felt slack and lifeless too. I decided to go home. And that's when I saw Elle. Truth be told, I had seen her on Wednesday too but hadn't reached her on time to take her picture. I don't know if instinct kicked in or just the memory of instinct from the other day, but in any case, I knew I wanted to take her picture.

Elle's outfit is all Asos. The real pull for me, however, is the beat-up old wing tips. Those are shoes with a patina.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Dapper Gent outside Lincoln Center

This guy walked into Lincoln Center with menswear guru, and ubiquitous street style personality Nick Wooster. "Why are you taking pictures of me?" Nick asked us, posing nonchalantly with his cellphone. "He's the handsome one." No one took the bait then. But then this guy came back around a couple more times. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Wanda, Sansom St

These shots were taken with my new 50mm lens opened to its widest aperture (F1.8). On my 85mm that makes for some pretty lush blur. Not as lush as it gets — my 85mm, after all, opens up to F1.4 (that's even bigger for those of you who don't speak camera) — but pretty lush nonetheless. The bokeh on this lens is much more controlled. The strobe effect is less pronounced with the little balls of light that make up the background blur noticeably smaller, and the subject in the foreground, on which the lens is focused, decidedly sharper. I like it, but it's quite a different thing than I'm used to, and it furthers that illusion of realism I mentioned in my last post. But don't be fooled. The 50mm distorts in its own way. Look at the image below, for instance. The portions are slightly off, even if they may be flattering to the subject. That's called parallax. Whatever is closest to the lens gets magnified. The 85mm, because it requires me to stand so far away, makes parallax barely discernible. 

Wanda, incidentally, is wearing all thrifted clothes. The tank top is by Joe. She got it at a second-hand shop in Williamsburg. The pants are from Fishtown's own Circle Thrift, the shoes from the local Buffalo Exchange. The sunglasses are Ray Ban. She has no idea what brand the bag is, but she got it on a trip out to Portland, Oregon. She loves the West Coast and is hoping to get back out there soon.    

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ulyana Sergeenko, An Icon in Search of a Brand

Ulyana Sergeenko, the Russian socialite turned style icon, was famous in the fashion world before she was famous for anything in particular, an icon in search of a brand. Now she has her own couture line, one thing leading to another. Fame, it would seem, is a variety of social capital easily converted into other kinds of capital. But hers was not an instant fame, as some of her detractors might suggest. It was hard won, like any other kind of fame, fought on the pavement outside catwalks. She had to win the affection of the street style bloggers before she could charm their readers. I hope in these pictures, shot in succession outside Rodarte at New York Fashion Week, some of that hard work shines through. My favorite part of these pictures? The blurred out photographer in the background. 

It occurred to me today, when I should have been working on something else, that I still have dozens of perfectly good images from New York Fashion Week that I have not yet bothered to post on this blog. I'm going to remedy that now. I will begin posting these on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and keep Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for new street style pics. I guess I'd gotten bored of my NYFW pics. I wanted to show new stuff, and stuff that felt somehow more "real" to me, as if Philadelphia street style is instantly more authentic and genuine than what is shown at fashion week. And maybe it is. But when the folks at fashion week fake it long enough it becomes the real thing. So here's my first batch of new images from Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Fall 2013. Everyone else is still posting theirs. Why shouldn't I? 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Philadelphia Street Style: Ashley, 15th St. And Some Musings on Lenses and the Illusion of Photo-Realism.

Ashley is the first street style portrait I've taken with my new 50mm lens. I've been shooting with an 85mm since last July. I bought it to get that creamy, dreamy background blur, also known as bokeh, that you see in blogs like Le 21-ème and I'm Koo. I love the ethereal and mysterious quality it lends images. It can make the dullest pair of shoes look positively otherworldly. But lately it's been feeling like a bit of a crutch. It's easy to get portraits to look good with an 85mm. That's why they call it a "portrait lens." I wanted to push myself to think more about overall composition. I wanted to be able to shoot images like those of The Selby or Backyard Bill, or even some of the latest shots by The Sartorialist, that depict their subjects within a larger context. Seems more anthropological that way. And the 50mm, with its wider angle, allows one to fit more in to a shot. Plus, several of my interviewees for this project, including Gunnar Hämmerle of Style Clicker and Yael Sloma of The Streets Walker, have told me that they prefer the 50mm, because it's the closest to what the human eye can see at one time. There is, they insist, a kind of built-in realism to the 50mm. A documentary realism. A journalistic realism. Or at least a more convincing illusion of realism. 

So what do you think? Are these shots of Ashley more realistic than my other shots? They are sharper, no doubt. That's another advantage of my 50mm. But more realistic? How would we measure such a thing anyway? 

Ashley, by the way, is wearing a top by Zara, a Forever 21 skirt, a pair of shoes from Urban Outfitters, and a Nasty Girl turban. I'm never sure what to call those things. I would have gone with "headband," but she set me straight.In any case, they are everywhere in Philly these days.