Scott Schuman and his very talented photographer girlfriend and source of inspiration, Garance Dore visited Philadelphia to promote his new book, The Sartorialist Closer. There was Q&A session with some members of the media as well as a public book signing at The Barnes Foundation. Ouigi Theodore of The Brooklyn Circus moderated the Q&A and got some great tidbits from Schuman regarding his approach to photography.
Why street fashion verses indoor studio shots?
“I’d rather go out and find the image and then capture what I’m seeing as opposed to creating it myself. I like to react to what I see more than try and create something.
When you look through the book I’m very proud of the diversity of the kinds of people that I shoot, young people, old people, kids, rich, poor. A lot of different scenarios, a lot of different places. I don’t try to say oh I’m going to shoot this particular age category for the blog, for me it’s totally irrelevant how old they are or how young, how rich they are, or how poor. I’m shooting to what I react to, I just happen to have a very open eye.”
What he thinks makes a great photograph?
“One thing that people don’t really realize or consider when they’re shooting is gesture, the physicality of the person. You get a sense of the person, you might not get a record of what their outfit looks like but the physicality of her gestures makes it inspiring to shoot.
If I’m successful with a photograph I think it’s because people can look at that photograph whether they’re in China or anywhere, and see something they can relate to in terms of it being a human, and then create their own dreamlike world of the image.”
How does he differentiate himself from all the other street style bloggers?
“When I started I was very inspired by August Sander, this German photographer who was shooting in the 30s, and 40s, even the late 20s. His shots were very straight up and down, so I was very inspired by that. I wanted the background a certain way, the lighting a certain way but everyone started doing that kind of thing, so as opposed to just being upset about that you have to evolve, that’s how you do anything. You evolve and you adjust; so now you know I think there’s a lot more movement in my shots, I’m playing with light and shadow a lot more. That’s one of the biggest things that Garance has taught me is that you constantly have to adjust.”
Does he shoot to inspire or just shoot things that he’s inspired by?
“I think I shoot to inspire, I shoot to inspire me. I think most of the time I’m always thinking, is it a photograph that I would want to look at again? If it’s not something that I think I’d want to look at again then I don’t know if I’d take the shot or I have to work to take the shot in a way that’s going to inspire me.”
What he thinks is the most inspiring city to shoot fashion in?
“New York is still my favorite, just because it’s so crazy the variety. I think I love shooting in Milan, it’s what I like to call narrow and deep. I mean it runs from Cavalli to Armani and that’s about it, you have a little more sexier part and a little more classier part, but the variety of it within that narrow scope is just so incredibly beautiful.”
What quality must a blog have for success?
"You have to have a really strong point of view. Once I started shooting all I had to teach myself to do was to clearly communicate what I felt about that thing through the photograph, that I didn’t have to write very much, that anyone could pick this up and go oh ok I get it. That’s the trickiest part, you have to have a strong point of view before you open a blog, just because it’s easy to do doesn’t mean that someone is gonna want to read it."
On making a living with the blog
“Garance and I are very lucky that we’re the first generation of photographers that will make more money getting ads on our sites than having to shoot ads for someone else. Garance and I are very lucky that we get ads on our site and go out and shoot what we want everyday. As long as we keep pulling the audience in, they’re kind of almost funding our artistic adventure. I think it’s going to keep evolving, continuing to surprise the audience, keep them coming back, make the fashion posts stronger but also shoot things that are a total surprise.”
And on why the book is called ‘Closer’, Schuman says, “I feel it’s getting closer to what I wanted to do originally in terms of mixing fashion, street and kind of cultural shots.” He plans to travel to a few different cities in the next few months and he wants to capture the cultural uniform of some of these places, whether it be bullfighters in Madrid or Square dancers in Nashville.
Schuman also mentioned that one of his favorite photographs in the book is actually a shot of an Amish family here in Pennslyvania. Overall he said his goal with his books and blog is to have a record of beautiful portraits of people.
The Q&A was very enlightening; at the book signing fans got the opportunity to briefly chat with Scott and Garance as they got their books signed.