The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman talks street style, selfie craze, and his new book
If you would ever meet a person who is distant from fashion world, how would you explain what your occupation is?
That's easy - I would just take photographs of people and share pictures online. That would explain what I do in fact. Actually, I meet people outside fashion world all the time as I shoot all over the places, and a lot of them have no idea what I do. You know, everybody has their thing - for me taking pictures and sharing them with others is very simple, so the simplicity of it keeps me up in the street.
How many hours do you spend outdoors with a camera?
I try to shoot as often as I can, so it's almost every day - about five to six hours per day. I try to take care of some things in the morning to allow spending the rest of the day out shooting. Nowadays, with modern phones you can do some work out of the office - they are so good, you know. I can go out for two days in a row and not get anything to shoot, but at the end of the day the most important thing is to put yourself in the position to be able to shoot - at any moment, any place.
I try to never put pressure on myself to take a photograph, but put pressure on to be there so if I see something I can take the photograph. And that's the hardest part - doing it every day.
What was the most reluctant case when you regretted your camera was not around?
One of the rituals I have, especially after being at fashion weeks - I am very tired usually after that as it's three or four weeks shooting every day. I like to put my camera away for a day or two, and what usually happens - I end up seeing someone so I have a feeling of regret wishing my camera was with me. And it's that regret that makes me go back and pick up my camera and start shooting again. So I like missing shots sometimes - it drives me, makes me miss the process.
What is your favorite dress code while shooting?
I don't like the heat very much, so in the summer I usually wear shorts and T-shirts, I like to be a little bit blend so people don't really notice me that much. I like to wear a lot of blue as you can tell. For me it is not a matter of wearing a particular thing but it's rather making sure it fits right and feels convenient - you know, the right length of a sleeve, things like that mostly.
Do you happen to model yourself to other street fashion photographers?
No, I am not very pretty (laughs). Those pictures that you see online are very random, and I do not really dress for them or help to take picture of me.
You started your street fashion blog in 2005, ten years ago! In your opinion, how the street fashion photography has changed in this decade?
I was very happy that when I started, it apparently inspired a lot of people to go pick up their own cameras and take photographs, so it's just more people doing it now - more voices, more ways of shooting. So now it is a matter of having more volume of photo content. Some people shoot better than others, so their work speaks silently to a bigger audience, it's simple like that.
Tell us about your new book The Sartorialist X.
I am very happy, it's my favorite book so far, a great variety of places in it - from page to page you will see people all over the world. Some of the photographs are very high fashion, and some of them are down to earth about people living in a simple way. Hopefully, every picture is inspirational in its own way through its color, patter, lighting, the person it has on it - what I really like about this edition is the diversity of places, people and emotions.
Will it be available in Russia and Kazakhstan?
I would think so, I do not really know all the different sale points as I am not responsible for that part, but I would really hope so. It's one of the reasons I do my books the way I do: affordable price and small size. Besides, those types of books do not require translation much, however it surprises me that it has been translated into Japanese, Chinese and Korean. This is a good thing about dealing with photographs - they speak for themselves, and that fact helped me with my blog from the very beginning. People did not need to understand English - they would make their own stories out of pictures.
Do you believe street fashion photography as a genre would last for another hundred years or so?
Yes, people love looking through pictures about other people, and street photography has always been important. I love looking at historical pictures of people, the way they lived, dressed - sometimes small details tell more than stats and facts. It's a human nature - look at the popularity of reality shows, we are so curious about human animal. So it will for sure last long, I think.
Your true opinion about selfies as a trend.
It's something that is happening right now, whether we like it or not. A thing of the moment. However, our history is full of selfies - Van Gogh, Rembrandt, all those self-portraits left for generations.
Don't you think they had a reason to do so? Leave a record of their existence?
For sure, don't you think it's the same reason why everyone else is doing that? Selfies are meant to leave a memory and share it. This is the first generation Warhol said everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, but I do not think everyone really believed that before. What really amazes me, is the fact that with all the emails, computers, phones and instagrams people are not becoming isolated, they actually have more opportunity to reach out - I have friends all other world now, with the technology helping me to keep in touch with them all the time.
There is a theory actually that selfies are becoming so massive because we are now living in a mixture of virtual and offline realities, so to distinguish ourselves simultaneously in both realities we need to make a self-portrait - here I am, alive, here and there.
Oh, this is an interesting one. They need to make an experiment - I am sure cuter people do it more often than others. Look at me - I barely do that, and really hard to pose myself.