Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

Tag: street style

Street Style: Scott Schuman’s Search for Grace

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photos by Scott Schuman from The Sartorialist

Street style is one way you could define the focus of photographer/blogger Scott Schuman.

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Scott Schuman by Neal Agustin

He presents his photography on his fashion blog, The Sartorialist and has two books out featuring his work. But it’s not just prowling the streets for people who dress with style – there’s something more intimate there as well. He’s on a quest to capture that moment when the inner spirit is somehow revealed. What strikes me about his best work is how much his subject’s personality shines through.

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I suppose I should add that while I’m not into fashion, I appreciate it – I notice people with a sense of style or who have a flair for presentation. Months ago I watched a documentary about street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. While I enjoyed the documentary and he was a worthy subject, he was quite taken with clothes and accessories themselves and that’s what he searched for. Scott Schuman finds something deeper than fashion.

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If street style means more than clothes and accessories for Scott, then what is it? He explains in an interview in Harper’s Bazaar

The only thing I can say that seems to be the thread that runs through all of them is some kind of physical grace. In that sense, it’s very different for each person — some men are very manly, some are more feminine. Some women are more removed, quiet and in a shell, in a way that can be very beautiful. Some are more outgoing. But they all just have some physicality about them that’s not just the clothes, but also the way they hold themselves.

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I also like his work because there’s a sense of romance and mystery captured in his images of street style. In his framing and sense of composition – in what’s revealed and what’s abstracted – his images become transformed into portraits. That’s why his work is so fascinating, he plucks people out of their daily lives and places them before you in a revealing moment as if caught in the blink of an eye. Again, from the Harper’s Bazaar interview:

I don’t necessarily get to know the people that I shoot. I shoot them from a distance and see them in the imaginary way that I see them. It’s a dream of who these people are… I’d rather have that mystery.

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I’m always drawn to works that open a window into your imagination – it’s the way the photographer or artist draws you into an image that is so appealing.  When everything about the image – the background, the composition, the framing and the lighting serves the subject and reveals some of that inner spirit or emotion – that’s when I get interested in the work. Here’s a bit from another interview where Scott is asked what makes a photo iconic:

 At the end of the day, I think what really creates a strong image is something that doesn’t tell a story but starts a story. So if someone looks at it they are already creating their own ideas, their own images and their own thoughts about the photograph. I think if it tells too much it doesn’t leave room for imagination.

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A while ago Intel launched a series about The Visual Life. I wrote about it briefly in an earlier blog post, but didn’t dwell on Scott’s approach to capturing street style. Here’s the video, which I think does a great job of emphasizing the photographer’s quest and the power of the visual moment. It’s also beautifully shot.

One last insight: here’s how Scott describes his journey into photography, from his introduction to The Sartorialist: Closer

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Scott Schuman by Neal Agustin

I’ve always felt like an outsider… I developed a sense of distance and isolation from people. This didn’t affect me in a negative way – I actually became more curious about people. I wasn’t interested in knowing facts about them, but in creating my own vision of how I thought they might be. This emotional distance was at the core of my development as a photographer.

That emotional distance is there in his imagery too, since you can go back and look at the images as just fascinating objects who happen to be people well-posed. I realize his work won’t appeal to everyone. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Intel’s Visual Life

Still from The Expressionist

I found myself on Intel’s Visual Life site and I want to share.  Especially a video called “The Expressionist” which you’ll find on the site.  


In it, designer Michael Wolff talks about understanding the visual experience, its importance to him personally and its impact upon his vision as a designer.  He speaks so clearly about the importance of seeing and engaging in the world around us.  And how that ability informs his work as a designer.  The visuals that accompany his comments are simple, sparse and elegant.


Still from The Expressionist

I’m seeing more videos in this style these days.  Basically static camera, every shot well composed, action takes place within the frame, each shot placed with the next to tell the story, sparse ambient music.  


When it works well, with purpose, it really moves you thought the moment in a highly visual manner.  Leaving lots of room for the words to have impact.  A huge departure from the often frenetic pace video used to embrace.  But that was then… and if this is what’s replacing it, I applaud.  But do check out “The Expressionist.”  It’s well worth the 5 minutes.

Still from The Sartorialist

I also watched the piece on Intel’s site about fashion blogger Scott Schuman, better known as “The Sartorialist.”  He talks about shooting street style fashion, which he does with aplomb.  


And while I find him personally a little off-putting, as opposed to the engaging and fascinating Michael Wolff, he has a keen eye and a great sense of capturing people imbued with that certain something we call style.  And although he directs and poses his people, his photos have that sense of casual encounter that typifies the street.  I especially liked watching him work with the discovered moment and then seeing what he actually shot.


What I haven’t talked about is Intel’s understanding that it’s not about their chip, it’s about what you can do with it.  And what better way to show that, than to profile people who personify “the visual life.”   I think it’s a great way to re-brand themselves.  And the Intel message only appears at the very end, when you’re ready to receive it.  Marketing magic.