Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Sartorialist - Scott Schuman

I picked up this book a few months ago not knowing anything about the photographer Scott Schuman. What initially attracted me to the book were the portraits of individuals with a fantastic sense of style. Not your everyday slavishly following fashion type of style but an individual sense of style which captures the sense of the individuals personality.

Very little text accompanies the images in the book which are full length portraits taken in the streets of London, New York, Paris, Tokyo - many of the fashion capitals of the world. At first glimpse you would think this is just a book on fashion. But when you study it you can see that it's much more than that. It's a book on the study of how individuals express themselves and their personality through fashion which has been captured in a photograph.  

Schuman is a self taught photographer with many years experience in the fashion industry  shooting advertising campaigns for the like of Vogue, GQ and Elle magazines. His original idea for the "Sartorialist" was a blog to try to connect the  highly stylised fashion he was seeing at fashion shows with the fashion on the streets. The images stand alone on the pages. No names given to the faces although there are one or two famous faces amongst them. As there is very little text in the book it's difficult to get any idea of the photographer's personality.

In the introduction to the book Scott Schuman explains the lack of commentary.

"I like people to draw their own conclusions, to find their own inspiration without the influence of a guiding hand."

His blog is regarded as the place to be seen in the fashion industry and has a huge following.

There are no clues or technical tips on how the images were taken in the street and for the best part appear to have been taken with natural lighting.  As the topic of my current assignment relates to lighting I have been trying to access these images from that viewpoint. The majority are taken outdoors on a bright but probably overcast day. Possibly a reflector or fill in flash was used to ensure an even illumination of the "model". In over 500 pages of images there are only 5 at the very end which are taken either at night or in what looks like a church with candle light suggesting the photographers preferred method of lighting is natural daylight.

In an article in The Times - March 2009 Schuman is said to have taken inspiration and be a fan of the Seeberger Brothers photography, whose fashionable images of chic ladies in France are credited as being some of the first real fashion photographs. In fact Scott Schuman lists the book Elegance by the Seeberger Brothers on his own blog reading list.

Unfortunately I can't find any images that are copyright free to post here which would show the comparison between Scott Schuman and the Seeberger brothers work but I would urge anyone interested in either  fashion or portrait photography to seek out both.

Here in the university town of St Andrews there is a huge, ever changing student and visitor population. As such there are new faces appearing all year round. Taking images of people in the street is way out of my comfort zone but I feel inspired to give it a go using the "excuse" of being a photography student to set myself a mini project. If you like you can follow my progress and see if I've managed to approach anyone in the street by using the new page tab at the top of this blog. Don't expect to see a picture a day  though it might take me some time to  pluck up the courage to stop people in the street but if nothing else I'll learn all the pitfalls of taking portraits using natural lighting and it should also help consolidate my learning from part 4 of this course. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds very positive Nicola and I'm looking forward to following your progress with this.