Scott Schuman on Why He Won't Photograph People Who 'Want To Get Shot' and Being the Victoria Beckham of Street Style

Last night, we took a break from a packed day of fashion presentations and parties on the it's-totally-not-fashion-week-yet-but-actually-it-absolutely-is day before fashion week, to stop by the Danziger Gallery in Chelsea where The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman's photographs are on display for the first time ever in an exhibition setting. The images on display are included in Schuman's newest book, The Sartorialist: Closer. Unsurprisingly, the event brought a mix of the blogosphere's brightest stars--Bryanboy, Rumi Neely and of course Schuman's girlfriend Garance Dore were all in attendance, as were many of Schuman's exceptionally well-dressed subjects. We managed to steal a few minutes with the photographer to talk about what makes a great photo, how he chooses his subjects and why he never smiles in photographs.
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Hayley Phelan
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Last night, we took a break from a packed day of fashion presentations and parties on the it's-totally-not-fashion-week-yet-but-actually-it-absolutely-is day before fashion week, to stop by the Danziger Gallery in Chelsea where The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman's photographs are on display for the first time ever in an exhibition setting. The images on display are included in Schuman's newest book, The Sartorialist: Closer. Unsurprisingly, the event brought a mix of the blogosphere's brightest stars--Bryanboy, Rumi Neely and of course Schuman's girlfriend Garance Dore were all in attendance, as were many of Schuman's exceptionally well-dressed subjects. We managed to steal a few minutes with the photographer to talk about what makes a great photo, how he chooses his subjects and why he never smiles in photographs.
Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Last night, we took a break from a packed day of fashion presentations and parties on the it's-totally-not-fashion-week-yet-but-actually-it-absolutely-is day before fashion week, to stop by the Danziger Gallery in Chelsea where The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman's photographs are on display for the first time ever in an exhibition setting. The images on display are included in Schuman's newest book, The Sartorialist: Closer.

Unsurprisingly, the event brought a mix of the blogosphere's brightest stars--Bryanboy, Rumi Neely and of course Schuman's girlfriend Garance Dore were all in attendance, as were many of Schuman's exceptionally well-dressed subjects. We managed to steal a few minutes with the photographer to talk about what makes a great photo, how he chooses his subjects and why he never smiles in photographs.

Obviously there were a lot of images to choose from when deciding what to put on display--how did you choose? It was really just about what images would stand alone in a strong way. So, over here you essentially have two young girls here and I didn't tell them how to stand, but they both kind of have these defensive, protective poses...and then over here you have two guys, Giorgio Armani, and this gentleman I shot in Korea, and they got their hand in their pocket, totally kind like 'hey I'm cool.' So I think it's interesting to see that sort of contrast.

You'll be shooting a lot during New York fashion week. Do you feel like now that street style has kind of exploded, that the style surrounding the tents and fashion week has become contrived, or less interesting? No. I mean, there is that element--the [person who] totally wants to get shot, and dressed crazy. But that's never what I shoot. I mean that's there, but it doesn't really affect me. You know, the people who shoot that and the people who dress like that, kind of deserve each other. It's the people who want to be famous, shot by people who want to make their blog famous. But it's not what I'm interested in. So the only way it affects me is I guess a more congested background when I'm shooting.

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So you're just observing, and if something catches your eye, then you take a picture. Yes. One thing that's helped me remember to keep my eyes really open is doing more Instagram. What I Instagram is totally different from what I typically shoot--it could be a person or a building--so it reminds me to really keep my eyes open.

Do you have any favorite fashion industry people you love to shoot? Luciano Barbera [is a favorite.] He has this great mill in Italy. He's just so chic. And he's just so unique. There's really no one quite like him. But you know someone like this girl, over here [pictured at right, on the cover of Schuman's new book]. She's the kind of girl I love to shoot. She's a young stylist. She doesn't have a lot of money. Basically all the clothes she wears are from her family or from thrift stores. There's a lot of stuff from the 1980s that she refits or puts together in a new way. But there's such a calmness about her. The way she stands, the way she's able to give such a direct gaze into the camera. So I love that when I shoot her it's not at all about the brands, or about how much it costs. It's the way she puts it together. It's the persona that she's building.

I noticed that she's also in the ads you shot for Coach. Along with a few other regulars on your blog. Yeah. I love shooting a girl like her, or a guy like Nathaniel (pictured at left). I just saw him on the street, and then I cast him in the Coach ads. His hair is so perfectly groomed, his pants, boom, are perfectly tailored. So he's handsome, but he works at really perfecting his look.

An image from Schuman's Coach campaign.

An image from Schuman's Coach campaign.

Obviously you're a great photographer, but it seems like you don't like being on the other side of the camera. Garance recently wrote on her blog that you were like Victoria Beckham because you never smile in pictures. Yes it's true. Actually the last thing my dad said to me before he died was 'why don't you smile in photographs?' And I said 'cause the photographer never says anything funny.' It's true! [As a photographer] if I want the person to smile, I try ans say something funny or I try to create a relaxed mood or do something goofy. So unless [the photographer] can help me do a natural smile, I don't want to be like [grimaces in a fake smile]. Or I don't want to look at the camera. You can take a picture, but I'll look over there.

I guess as a photographer, you know your best angles. Exactly. When I do press things, I try to tell them, I only want my picture [from the shoulder up], not [my whole body]. This part of me [gesturing from the shoulder up] is not so bad, but this part of me [gesturing from the shoulder down], not so much.