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.      


  1. It's definitely a more straight-forward documentary style photo, which is the style I use for my street shots. I do like the dreamy effect of the bokeh, but after a while, it starts to make every street style shot look like an outtake from a fashion shoot.

    1. exactly what i'm hoping to move away from. i'll still play with bokeh, but not in every shot.

  2. Love her look! The new photo looks good :)


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