Impressions of the man behind the lens, from the gal in front of it
Story by Julie Ragolia / Photography by Garance Doré
The name Scott Schuman, or his moniker, the Sartorialist, makes its way into just about every fashion conversation these days. In only four years since starting his daily blog of street photography, Schuman has become one of the foremost influencers of fashion, if not popular culture in general, having turned the temporal nature of blogs as we know them into something of a timeless record; a never-ending picture book of style and scene, the pages of which just so happen to turn with a click. This month Schuman solidifies his rank in more traditional form, with the release of his first bound book of photography, aptly titled, The Sartorialist.
I just so happen to be the cover subject of The Sartorialist, which is an honor on many levels, as one can imagine. It’s a photo Schuman took of me during a recent fashion week in New York. When I look at the image I don’t necessarily see myself, or focus specifically on what I’m wearing, as much as I view the image as an idealized whole. It captures the romantic aspect present in so many of Schuman’s photographs, which inspire hundreds to comment daily on each one that he posts.
While Schuman is not necessarily thinking about it when he takes pictures, the blog is surely about fashion. And though his eye for individual style in relation to environment marks a special quality of Schuman’s work, one that transcends comparative relationship to other such style bloggers and evokes instead the spirit of Jacques-Henri Lartigue or Garry Winogrand, the blog’s chronological nature, marked especially by various capitals’ fashion weeks, cannot help but be a document of trend. “I think we all love Scott and the Sartorialist for sort of completing the circuit of style, and of the fashion system, and highlighting the personal interpretation of trends,” says womenswear designer, Chris Benz. And so, where the blog is chronological, the book enables Schuman to editorialize his images in more comparative ways, whether grouped by city, timeframe, or by the particular people that fans of the blog have since come to know and recognize.
Coordinate musings in Schuman’s own words support some of the book’s images (something he shies from doing too often on the blog), granting all of us access to the subtle style choices that make him take notice of particular people in various cities worldwide.
The desire to see oneself on The Sartorialist has become as much a phenomenon as the blog itself. Several blogs have tried to theorize a method behind Schuman’s subject choices, in order that those looking for their 15 minutes of virtual fame might achieve it a little easier. Schuman insists, however, that there is no criterion to speak of beyond his personal taste. “I shoot women on instinct, and men on experience. I see something that I like versus seeing something that I would wear.” That said, several recurring faces on The Sartorialist blog are, in fact, those of fashion industry insiders, an aspect Schuman’s fans occasionally chide but, overall, appreciate for its degree of familiarity, and for the way it helps Schuman’s own personal tastes shift and evolve. “I check back to see what he’s up to; how his tastes are changing and how folks are looking on the streets. He has a good eye. He’s also one of the forerunners to what’s become a global phenomenon. Not to mention that he takes a great picture, sometimes of my friends. Its always fun to see that,” says Josh Peskowitz, style editor of men.style.com, and regularly featured Sartorialist subject.
As the popularity of the blog has grown, so, too, has the Sartorialist brand. Schuman often lends his impromptu style of street photography to commercial advertising campaigns, working with such brands as Burberry, DKNY, and more. And while doing so, he calls upon some of his favorite subjects from the blog to model in various projects (you may recall a feature I wrote last year about my experience in modeling for Schuman for Gant), creating an interesting alternative to expected model norms. With the launch of the book, Schuman has also put his personal wardrobe style up for sale, curating a traveling pop-up shop to coordinate with various celebratory events worldwide, titled, SartoriaLust. For sale at SartoriaLust’s landing sites will be various clothing and product items, all selected by Schuman from his everyday palate, some of which he has even personally designed.
It’s been an upward and upscale journey for Schuman, especially amazing considering that he never even intended to be a photographer. “I wasn’t planning on becoming a photographer,” he says. “I was a stay-at-home dad just taking pictures of my kids. But I wanted to take pictures that I wanted to look at.” Well done, Sartorialist. You’ve created images that we all want to look at, too.