Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rosie Browning, outside Peter Som, 15th St, New York

Monday, September 29, 2014

Zaz, Headhouse Square, Philadelphia

Friday, September 26, 2014

Devon, Headhouse Square, Philadelphia

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Talia, Headhouse Square, Philadelphia

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Street Style from Fashion Under the Shambles, Headhouse Square, Philadelphia

Last night was Fashion Under the Shambles, a showcase of local designers, salons, and boutiques held in Headhouse Square. The Headhouse District that surrounds it is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Philly. Its flavor — a touch of vintage, a dash of burlesque, a heavy dose of punk rock — saturated the event. I'm not going to show you any runway shots from Fashion Under the Shambles, although I assure you they would have been charming. Hosted by "America's Next Top Model finalist" Corey Wade Hindorff, the catwalk featured amateur models with a diversity of looks, ethnicities, and body types. It was probably worth documenting, but I didn't. Frankly, I often get bored when other street style bloggers do show runway images. That's just not what street style sites are good for or at, especially since all sorts of other media photographers were there. So I am leaving the runway photography to the professionals. I will, however, be showing you street style shots of the attendees over the next week or so. I snapped off a couple hundred pics before the show started at 7pm. It's time for a little break from New York Fashion Week. But don't worry, I've still got plenty of those pics to show you as well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dominique Pearl, outside Thakoon, 37th St, New York

Monday, September 22, 2014

Photographer outside G-Star, Wall Street, New York

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Free Labor, Freelancing, and Free Stuff

The rewards of blogging can be a long time coming. It's been close to two and a half years since I started Urban Fieldnotes. At times it felt like no one was reading it. At times it felt like a complete waste of time. In terms of yielding valuable ethnographic data, sure, it's been a real benefit. I've learned an enormous amount from blogging, tangible and practical stuff based in direct experience. But in terms of yielding all that other stuff — the golden goodies of blogging: free stuff, career opportunities, invites to major fashion events — not so much. Up until recently the sum total of swag I had received from the blog was a couple of Aphillyated t-shirts and a Members Only jacket. All that is beginning to change.

Friday afternoon I attended the soft opening for Goorin Bros Hats on Walnut Street. I was invited in to meet Ben Goorin, CEO and fourth generation milliner. I got a complimentary, handmade American heritage fedora, a real beauty, all because of this little blog I've been doing the last couple of years. I'm an influencer now, you see. When I wear a hat it matters. Others follow suit. Or at least so some poor soul at Goorin Bros thought. Poor Goorin Bros are now out over a hundred bucks in merchandise. I love my hat, though! INSERT SUBTLE MARKETING LANGUAGE IMPLORING YOU TO SHOP AT GOORIN BROS HERE.

The night before that I attended TechStyles, a conversation on the intersection of fashion and technology moderated by MenStylePro's Sabir M. Peele. Man, that guy gets around! And he always looks sharp (probably, in part, because of all the free clothes he gets — maybe I ought to be a personal style blogger). The most recent winner of Project Runway, Dom Streater, was one of the panelists. I was on the VIP list, which meant I got to participate in a watchmaking workshop with the founder of Analog Watches, a local company that makes timepieces out of wood, marble and other natural materials. Now I have this cool wooden timepiece to hang around my neck. Why? Because I blog, dude. Haven't you been paying attention?

To keep the theme running, two nights before that (Tuesday) I attended the kick-off party for the Philadelphia Collection. Free food, open bar. The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, officiated. Apparently, he does he not have more pressing matters to attend to. This is the kind of shit I do now. These are the kinds of things I go to. And that's only the invites I've accepted. During this past New York Fashion Week, for instance, I was invited to two shows (I know, I know, that's nothing by fashion blogger standards) and three Style360 parties (one hosted by Serena Williams, one by Carmen Electra, and one by Kristin Cavallari — VICE Magazine, incidentally, rated that last party the very worst one of Fashion Week, so I'm not super sad about skipping it). I've even gotten a few invites for shows at Paris Fashion Week. Thanks, guys, but I think I'm going to have to hold off until someone finances my tickets over there. 

I swear, this is not intended as a humble brag. Once again, by fashion blogger standards none of this is all that impressive. It is, rather, to suggest that blogging is the kind of free labor one has to keep up for quite a long time in order to see things begin to happen. One has to be able to support oneself in some other way for years before blogging pays off. And that tells you something about who can afford to be a blogger. My colleague at Temple University, Brooke Duffy, calls the kind of labor bloggers do "aspirational labor," and the term seems quite apt. We blog and blog and blog, spending valuable time and resources for months and months, all in aspiration for some vague and indeterminate stuff to begin to happen, and then slowly, when we've practically given up, it does. Or it doesn't. Either way, an enormous amount of labor was expended. 

And labor begets labor. The reward for hard work, they say, is more hard work. Want proof? Now, apparently, I am freelancing. WTF? Freelancing? I have a job already, a good job. And yet I have somehow found myself as a freelance street style photographer as well. I have shot for Racked Philly and Racked National, and as of yesterday, for Refinery29. Not for the money, mind you. The money's not that good. I'm freelancing because that's what street style bloggers do — to build their portfolios, to expand their audience, to make money off what they enjoy doing — and this research requires me to do what street style bloggers do. So I am. It's an interesting experience, I must say, and my admiration for freelancers is going up all the time. I'm glad I don't need to support myself this way. Cuz, dude, it would take a lot of freelance photography gigs to match my professor salary. Every once in a while, talking to my various new friends who shoot for Elle, W, or Marie Claire, I fantasize about leaving academia for a more glamorous career in the fashion industry. And then I remember what I've learned about what it's like to work in the fashion industry: lots and lots of free labor and freelancing in the hopes that something someday will come of it. I'm much better off as an anthropologist. Still, I gotta admit, the mounting swag is nice. Maybe I'll stick out this blogging thing a bit longer. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Joshua Kissi of Street Etiquette, Wall Street, New York

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Amazing Afro outside G-Star, Wall Street, New York

Spotted her on the steps from some 200 feet away. One of my favorite looks from Fashion Week. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jilly Peppa, Outside G-Star, Wall St, New York

Jilly Peppa is executive editorial assistant at WeTheUrban, as well as the blogger behind Manufactured1987 and her eponymous Tumblr.She has also been featured in a recent Diesel campaign, and I think that's how I first became aware of her. I ran into her outside the runway show for G-Star, down in the unlikely location of Wall Street, amidst all the imposing stone architecture and tour guides in top hats. Tyler Joe (shooting for Marie Claire) and I decided to head down there for what promised to be amazing light and a picturesque location. The light, as it turns out, was a bit dimmer than we expected, and the location was so overcrowded with suits and tourists, it was hard to get a good shot. But the two of us were just about the only street style photographers down there, and for the first time all day, we got to spend a little bit of time getting to know our subjects. I got some of my favorite shots from Fashion Week there, including this one of Jilly. I'll be posting some of my other shots from outside G-Star the rest of the week. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Outside Costello Tagliapetra, 15th St, New York

Monday, September 15, 2014

Karl-Edwin Guerre, Pier 59, New York

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Preetma Singh, Outside Peter Som, 15th St, New York

And continuing the green hair theme from yesterday, it's Preetma Singh, Market Editor for the Wall Street Journal. To be fair, though, Preetma did it first. Green hair has become something of her signature, since she quit her job as a lawyer several years back to pursue (a far less lucrative but possibly more personally fulfilling) career in fashion. Thank you, Preetma, for always being nice to the hard-working photographers out there on the sidewalk. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Irene Kim, before Creature of Comfort

Friday, September 12, 2014

Natalie Suarez of Natalie Off Duty, after BCBG Max Azria

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Goodbye, Anna Wintour and the Gang. I am Done with New York Fashion Week for this Year.

Anna Wintour leaving the Reed Krakoff presentation.
 Fashion Week is like that first cigarette a nicotine fiend imbibes in the morning after a night of heavy drinking and smoking. It's gross. He doesn't exactly want it or enjoy it. But he's not about to not have it either. After every day of shooting at NYFW I feel done with it. I've chased enough editors paparazzi-style down the exit routes of shows. I've flattered the egos of enough rising starlets. But by the next morning I need a new fix. I need new pictures, new dopamine rushes. I size up everyone who passes by.
After shooting Day 6 of New York Fashion Week this season, however, I felt really and truly done. My energy had flagged. My enthusiasm was gone. And I was no longer getting a rush after securing a good shot. It all just felt like more of the same. It was time to pack my bag and go. So goodbye, Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. Goodbye Lincoln Center, Milk Studios, Spring Studios, Pier 59, and the other venues. Goodbye Anna Wintour, Eva Chen, Margaret Zhang, Rachel Wang, and the rest of the editor gang. Goodbye Tyler Joe, Keith Morrison, Hunter Abrams, Driely S., Emmy Park, Chermelle Edwards, and the rest of my shooting companions. See you in February.

As for my pics from NYFW, you'll be seeing those for some time to come. Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Getting Some Distance from NYFW, Day 5

I'm sitting out Day 6 of New York Fashion Week. I needed a break, and a chance to catch up on some other work. I needed to sit down at my computer for a day and reflect on what's happened at Fashion Week so far. And I think I've earned it

Yesterday was a rough day for a lot of the photographers out shooting Fashion Week. Mid-week malaise set in. We were all sick of style stars and short on sleep. Few people even bothered to chase Irene Kim down the street as she skipped and twirled. The day got off to a bad start for those whose schedules, for whatever reason, failed to include the Tommy Hilfiger show. I, myself, was glad to miss it. It sounded like a "shit show" to me — a swarm of photographers all trying to get the same shot and thwarting each others' efforts in the process. But not everyone was so glib.Tommy was where the action was at, and a street style photographer has to prove her worth by being in the center of the action. And, of course, knowing where it's happening in the first place. 
Ethnographer's often speak of those moments of cultural revelation, where they suddenly understand the scene they're embedded within in a new way. The anthropological lens comes into sharp focus. The field starts to look very different. I had one of those moments yesterday. Tired of shooting editors from major fashion publications, many of whom really don't have all that interesting of a style in the first place, I finally put two and two together and realized why so many street style photographers shoot so many images of editors in their fashion week coverage. It's because their editors want them to. Editors pay photographers to go out and shoot them walking into runway events in their borrowed couture. It's how they build their brand. It's how they get their names out there. Friends of mine who shoot for the major fashion magazines all have to make sure to capture their editors going into the events. Otherwise they get chewed out. Some even text their photographers before they arrive. So much for the fashion week circus being the fault of bloggers! The industry has made its own mess. As one photographer put it yesterday, "[The editors] are hiring us to get shots of them."

Figuring this out cast the whole street style mob scene in a new light. Fashion week is where a mess of parties (editors, bloggers, photographers, models, etc) struggle to position themselves within a rapidly shifting social field. Photographers want their work to be seen. Editors want their faces to be seen. Much of the identity-building in the fashion world now takes place outside the runway shows. And what's at stake is not just good shots. What's at stake is one's place within the larger industry. Editors may complain about "all the damn bloggers" outside the shows, but they need them. Those bloggers help transform them from anonymous editors to name-brand fashion personalities, thereby upping their status and making it possible for them to move up with their next career move. I also realized why some editors are so reluctant to let just anyone shoot them. It's not that they hate being photographed. They just don't want to be shot by a bunch of nameless nobodies. Tommy Ton, sure. Phil Oh, of course. But Brent Luvaas from Urban Fieldnotes? Who the hell is he? Editors too have to protect their brands. Being too available to photographers reduces their exclusivity. They have to play hard to get.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Instagramming the Hell out of NYFW, Day 4

Dylan Xue, outside DKNY
I spend way too much time on my iPhone, checking messages, looking at pictures, and yet, compared to the average street style photographer at New York Fashion Week, I am practically an iPhone teetotaler. Other photographers look only in two directions: at their phones and at the door where the models are supposed to come out. They send each other texts about the locations of the next show, monitor Facebook and Twitter for inside information, and obsessively check the number of likes and comments on their latest Instagram post as if it were a running tally of their cumulative self-worth.   
Nora Vai, outside DKNY
It is not at all uncommon for photographers to announce to one another the the number of new followers they just acquired after posting their image of Rihanna, Carolina Issa, or whoever, or to tell each other who just liked their post. "Nabile just liked my photo," a friend of mine who shoots for a major website told me as we were waiting outside Public School, speaking of the photographer behind J'ai Perdu ma Veste. We both understood the significance. Nabile doesn't seem like the kind of guy who likes anything. To a street style photographer these days, Instagram is everything. It's how you build an audience, how you measure your popularity, even how you get photographic gigs. Photographing the right people can get you followed by major editors, stylists, and producers. It can put you on an important person's radar. And so photographers don't take chances with Instagram. They are careful and deliberate about who they post. And if they don't get the response they expected from their followers, they may even delete the image. One photographer explained to me that it can make a model (for instance) look bad if she doesn't get enough likes. He doesn't want that to then reflect badly on him. So even if he loves a picture himself, he'll delete it if it doesn't reach a critical threshold of likes.
SooJoo Park, outside DKNY

Recognizing the importance of Instagram, I started doing something I've been loathe to do at Fashion Week before, collecting names and Instagram handles from the people I shoot whenever I get the chance (or don't already know who they are). It's worked for other people. Time to find out if it can work for me. I'll let you know.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Waiting for Something to Happen at NYFW, Day 3

So much of fashion week is waiting. Waiting for shows to start. Waiting for shows to end. Waiting for Rihanna to finally leave Alexander Wang after the crew at Pier 94 has assured us multiple times that no one else is coming out. "People, we are removing the doors. The only people you are going to see are crew men and teamsters." A likely story, we all thought.
 And then, when the waiting is done, the mad rush begins. The rush to get photos of models exiting the shows while still in runway make up. The rush to get to the next show before the entrance starts. The rush to get to the front of the crowd as that black Range Rover pulls in front of the doors and get the best picture of (take your pick) Nicki Minaj, Die Antwoord, Anna Wintour. I think I was the only one to shoot Skrillex. Poor Skrillex. He seemed like a nice enough chap.  
Shooting in a sea of photographers is no fun. Most of us get sub-par shots, and then they are the same shots as everyone else's. Feet get stepped on. Cameras, occasionally, get smashed (as happened to a certain name-brand photographer today). It's a regular prisoner's dilemma out there. All looking after our own interests, we make it unlikely that any of us will have our interests met. Probably better to pull a Scott Schuman or an Yvan Rodic and just walk away and look for your shots elsewhere. They may not include Giovanna Battaglia or Anya Ziourova, or anyone that anyone has ever heard of, but they will be your shots and yours alone. And how many shots of Anya Ziourova does the world even need? What does she even do again? It sure beats the hurry up and wait game.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Too Busy to Look Up: Cell Phone Shots from NYFW, Day 2

Friday, September 5, 2014

Street Style is Undead: Notes from NYFW SS2015, Day 1

The popular press has a tendency to pronounce things "dead" right at the moment when they are peaking in popularity. Street style photography is the latest victim. Despite a spate of recent reports in major newspapers, including one which quoted me in The Guardian, street style has reached its saturation point. The world has grown weary of pictures of rising style starlets promenading through the pillars of Lincoln Center.They are hungering for something more "authentic," more "genuine," more encrusted with the storied grime of the "real" street. Too bad no one told the street style photographers that. At Lincoln Center yesterday there were more of them than I have ever seen before, easily numbering in the hundreds. And the newbie bloggers and wannabe style stars were there too...in droves. Street style may have had the soul sucked out of it. It may have lost its edge, its grit, and its emphasis on the everyday, but it is very much in motion. Street style is as animated as it has ever been, despite all sorts of proclamations to the contrary. Let's just say that street style is undead. It is a walking animated corpse of what it once was.   
The first day of New York Fashion Week is always a mixture of eager anticipation and grumbling monotony. I ran into a number of bloggers and photographers I have gotten to know these past three seasons, along with a strong contingency of Philly fashion personalities. It felt a little like a class reunion, or perhaps more accurately the first day back at school. The timing was right for that too. There was a good deal of complaining about the heat and the crowd, and no one had quite gotten into their groove yet. I too went back and forth between wanting to be there and wanting to be anywhere else. But I got some good pictures. You will be seeing a bunch of them over the next few weeks. And I got some awful ones you will not be seeing. 

I don't have too much to report to you about changes on the ground. Rumors abounded about Tommy Ton's retirement (which turned out not to be true) and Lady Gaga being turned down at the door (probably also not true, although none of us photographers could decide for sure whether or not that was, in fact, Lady Gaga — most likely not). It felt like the street style trenches of NYFW always feel, only perhaps a bit more. The crowds outside the shows have inflated (after a brief downturn last February), the cameras have gotten more expensive, and the lenses considerably bigger (the trend appearing to be away from the 85mm that used to be standard, towards 70-200mm). The photographers need bigger lenses. There are just too many people in their way.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Street Style Outtakes from Budweiser Made in America

Festival style has become a major thing on street style websites. SXSW, Coachella, AfroPunk, Pitchfork Fest, these have all become fertile hunting grounds for the latest in sartorial trends.  Which is funny, in a way, because festival style is rather characteristically, well, unstylish. People dress down for festivals. Or they dress in ridiculous getups involving American flags and funny hats. Fun is the order of the day, and fun and cool are not entirely compatible concepts. That's ok. Cool is not always the most adaptive response to every circumstance in life. Sometimes you just want to have fun. But this presents a bit of a challenge for a street style photographer. At this last weekend's Budweiser Made in America festival, which I was shooting for Racked.com, I had to systematically ignore the vast majority of people—the baseball-cap-clad bros, the weekending suburbanites, the young women in cut-off jeans so short the pockets (and not just the pockets) hang out. But then, no one ever claimed street style was an accurate representation of the majority. 

You can see the pictures Racked chose to put up in their gallery of "Street Style from Philly's Made in America Festival" on their website now. For some of my favorites they didn't choose, see below. 

On a typical day of shooting street style in Center City, Philadelphia, I have to filter through around 500 people before I find a subject I want to shoot for this blog. Most people aren't that stylish, nor do they particularly care to be. They have other things to do than pay close attention to their clothes. At MIA Fest, on the other hand, I had to filter through around 5,000. Yes, 5,000. There were one tenth as many cool people at MIA Fest as there are, at any given moment, just wandering around downtown. I know you're not getting that impression from these photos, but that is because I have carefully curated them for you. That's what street style photography is all about: a careful curation of cool. 
Don't get me wrong. I had a good time shooting at MIA Fest, and I'll do it again. I got to see Grimes and Danny Brown, hear J. Cole perform "Be Free" live. I'm even relatively happy with how my pictures turned out. It was fun. Fun is good. Plus, it's the first time I've been to an event this size with a press pass. That's good stuff too, I'll tell you right now. I got to dodge the lines and shoot wherever I wanted, except that is, in the pit for Kanye West. He's pretty selective about who gets to do that. 
But there are a number of things that make events like MIA Fest less than ideal for shooting street style. First, as already mentioned, people dress down for them, as if they were college kids from 1982 going for a drunken inner-tube ride down some quiet creak in a Northern California town. That, by the way, is not an example pulled out of thin air. It is a vivid memory from my childhood. Those dudes were drunk! And they did not look cool.  
Second, there are way too many people present to get "clean" shots. "Clean" shots, by the way, in street style photographer jargon, mean shots without a bunch of other pedestrians sneaking their way into the foreground.
Getting clean shots is further complicated by the latest, incredibly irritating trend of "photobombing" photographers, that is, intentionally getting into their shots, while making faces in the background, flashing peace signs, putting their arm around the subject you are shooting, or something to that effect. Dear festival goers, it is time to stop this. Photobombing is not cute. It is not funny. And it will not make you momentarily famous. All you have succeeded in doing is screwing up the shots of the photographers. They are not going to send these photos to their editors. They are not going to make you into a star. They are going to delete them and curse you. That is all. So next time you consider photobombing some hardworking photographer, don't.
And while we're on that note, please oh please, festival goers, don't ask the working photographers to take your picture. They are not wedding photographers. Their job is not to capture a smiling sample of all the guests. They are, in fact, not working for you at all. They are working for a client—possibly a magazine, or a newspaper or website. And it's a harsh reality, I know, but their client is probably not interested in having a photograph of you. If they wanted one, they would have asked you for one already.
Shooting street style at a festival, in fact, is a great exercise for learning how to sympathize with assholes, because it is hard to do so without, to a certain extant becoming one. Among the lines I caught myself uttering at the festival were: "not you, dude," "please get out of my shot!", and "no, just her." My personal favorite, said to three bros in matching American flag headbands who called out to me, as I was shooting a young lady before the entrance, "Hey, why don't you guys ever shoot dudes?" was "I do. Just not you guys." 
I'm not complaining. Or, at least, I don't really have the right to complain. I met a lot of cool people. I had some great interactions. I got some shots I like. And some of those were even featured on a prominent fashion website. They weren't all the ones I would have chosen, but hey, that's just how it works when you're shooting for someone else. You don't get to call the shots. 
My streetwear pics seemed to hold less interest for Racked, so they are featured more prominently here, on my own website. Good. I am a fan of streetwear pics. This is "Urban Fieldnotes" after all. It's gotta have some urban in it. 
I'll let you enjoy the rest of the photos without my commentary. Here they are.