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.


  1. Brent, very much on the mark with the "plastic, dye cast" mechanization of the current Social Media/ Business model of "Keeping up with the Jones"... who's really real, genuine, authentic? Who are the real photographers, models, editors HELL even people out there? BUT THEN who really go there now for the real deal if you're not getting paid?

    I enjoy your photography

  2. Hey Brent! First I'd like to say thank you for creating this blog. It has been probably the largest piece of help and inspiration in getting my blog off of the ground. When I first started I was shooting more candid "catch em as they walk by" stuff, but at heart I am a portrait photographer who loves interacting with my subjects and your blog convinced me to go back to shooting how I shoot best. My blog is now leaps and bounds better for it.

    Also I want to thank you for speaking so candidly about shooting these last several seasons during NYFW. Even though I'm in Cincinnati and we don't have 1/4 the style and fashion that Philly or NYC has, if I were to ever get an invite to shoot a NYFW I don't think I'd accept it. From the outside looking in it just doesn't seem like of tea so to speak. I just wouldn't be proud of showing the same pictures that nearly every other shooter is getting. Anyway, keep up the good work and the research. If I ever make it to Philly I'd love to buy you a beer. Cheers!

    Tré Voir

    1. Hey Tré Voir, Thanks for all your kind words. Yeah, New York Fashion Week can be a real drag. It's full of preening egoists and social climbers. But it's also an enormous adrenaline rush, and even though I'm happy NYFW is only twice a year— so I can concentrate on ordinary (but cool) people on the streets of Philly—I always find myself looking forward to it again a month or so before it starts. Plus, there's some really cool people out there shooting. It's a great place to meet like-minded street style photographers. If you get a chance, I say do it. Just don't forget about what drew you to street style in the first place.

  3. Thanks, Al. Look forward to running into you at the Philly Fashion Week events.

  4. i like the last photo, both fashion looks good and interesting photo tone.


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