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.