Catching the Eye of the Sartorialist
After launching the now famous "Sartorialist" blog in 2005, Scott Schuman has emerged as an influential force in the world of fashion. A self-taught photographer, Schuman shoots for publications including French Vogue, American GQ, Fantastic Man and Elle, and a growing list of advertising clients. He has also shown his work at the New York photo gallery The Danziger Projects and appeared in the GAP Style Icon campaign in the fall of 2008. He has been named the number one fashion photography trend by American Photo magazine, as well as one of Time magazine’s top 100 design influencers. Penguin published an anthology of his favorite photographs in 2009. The hardcover collection is aptly entitled, "The Sartorialist."
Question: What do you look for in your subjects?\r\n
Scott Schuman: You know I was in the business for 15 years. My ex wife was a designer. I had a showroom where I worked with young designers, so I was very familiar with what designers look for when they’re going out to look for inspiration and they’re not looking for trends. If it’s something that’s already out on the street now that’s a trend now it’s not going to be something they’re going to design for a year from now. It’s usually much more abstract and it might be a detail. It might be color combination. It could be even the way the posture of a girl. I think one of the things that a lot of designers look at my site is not specifically the pieces that I’m shooting, but I think they maybe look at a girl and think I love the way that girl looks, but I would never dress her like that. That girl inspires me, but I love the idea of a long dress. Maybe she is wearing a long dress and they’re thinking it’s been a long time since I’ve designed a long dress, but I would never put it in a floral print. I would do it this way. So I don’t think they’re looking at my site for specific inspiration. I think they’re looking at it in a abstract way to get them thinking about that customer and that girl and that kind of girl they would like to dress and how they would do it a little bit differently and so I think that’s probably the most realistic. Or even the guys. I know a lot of the designers take a lot of those old guy pictures I take, these kind of really stylish old guys and I know it’s not because of the specific clothes that they’re wearing, but it’s the posture and it’s the attitude and it’s the elegance of these guys that is attracting them that inspires them and it’s the same thing for me. I’m totally inspired. It’s not that I want to dress like an 80 year-old Milanese guy, but the fact that they can still carry themselves with such an elegance, even at that age I think is very inspiring and whether it’s Milan or Harlem or wherever I think that’s something that guys really key on, a lot of the designers really key in on.\r\n
Question: What do you think about when you’re shooting?\r\n
Scott Schuman: When I’m shooting I try and keep it just very easy, very unplanned. I’m just walking around on the street looking for somebody that I think looks cool and I might be able to get a good shot. Today I was at Jamba Juice and there was a very cool girl, a very cool young college girl and she had a great coat and little cardigan with a fur trim and another print dress and nothing that she was wearing was expensive. It was all kind of thrown together, but thrown together just right, the color combination, how cute she looked. She was very kind of charming. Even though she was a tall girl she had a very kind of small persona, a very kind of shy persona and all of that is important. I mean to me the persona that she is creating whether it’s a big dramatic one or a quiet shy one, the way they stand, all of that is something that you want to try and capture in some way, at least my perception of who that person is in the photograph and so that’s you know you never know where you’re going to meet these people. That is why it’s fun. That’s why I enjoy going out and getting lost hopefully everyday or every other day and just seeing what is out there because by the end of the day I usually get back to my office and think I never would have thought I’d run into that kind of person there doing that thing and by constantly challenging myself that’s what I think keeps the integrity and the sincerity of the blog.\r\n
Question: Has anyone responded badly when you tried to snap them?\r\n
Scott Schuman: No, I haven’t had too many people. I mean people turn me down, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to tell who will probably turn me down and being able to read people a little bit. You know if someone is walking really fast then it looks like they probably have somewhere they’re going, so I don’t get too many people that are upset. I did have someone who was in the background of one of my pictures that I put up like two weeks ago and totally unrelated, he just happened to be walking by on the street, but he just happened to be looking just at the right moment at the subject I was taking a picture of and so he emailed me today feeling that maybe he should be compensated for being in that picture and or at least a big print or something like that, so I thought that was a little bit odd, but not too many weird or bad stories. I haven’t been beaten up or chased or anything yet.\r\n
Question: What other fashion blogs do you follow?\r\n
Scott Schuman: GaranceDore.fr, not just because she is my girlfriend, but I do truly think that she has got the best women’s fashion blog in the world. Her point of view is great. She is… Her writing is great. Her photography is great. Her… The way that she communicates to her reader is brilliant. The way she writes and the ability to be that stylish and that fashionable and yet that approachable. It’s a real challenge to be able to do that and do it consistently everyday because you can’t fake it.\r\n
She is doing a lot of things that other blogs just aren’t doing graphically that make it really interesting. I mean my blog is doing very well. My audience is bigger than hers, but there are days when I look at her blog and I’m totally jealous, totally pissed that she hasn’t told me how she did some of those things that you know just little technical things to make shots look great or how she is laying them out on the page or whatever, so I mean it’s a good kind of challenging relationship, but I think she probably does better than anybody else right now and I hate her for that and love her.\r\n
Question: Are fashion magazines becoming less relevant?\r\n
Scott Schuman: I don’t know. I guess with magazines I’ve never really looked at them that way. You know being someone who… You know I’m a self taught photographer and I taught myself photography just looking, looking, looking at the magazines, so to be honest a lot of them I hardly ever read. I don’t really look at what their real fashion opinion is. For me it’s always been very abstract, so I don’t know. I can’t really… I love my fashion magazines. You know a lot of times I get a question you know do you think blogs will replace fashion magazine and I hope not because I love my GQ and Vogue and Paris Vogue and all of that. I think I look at them less now just because I’ve started to develop my own photographic style that I’m very comfortable with, but they really are the ones that taught me the idea of how I wanted to shoot.\r\n
Recorded on December 2, 2009
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