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, 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. 

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