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The Art of Street Style Photography

During the recent years the street style culture has gained a big role as fashion media content. All the way back since the first photographers were established, people have been taking photos of street goers looking either extremely beautiful, ugly, nice, cute or every other superlative. In the 21st century most of the Western world have access to rather good digital cameras and internet, which are the tools to capture fashionable people and share the images to the rest of the world through blogs and other social media channels.

The big street style photographers – like The Sartorialist or Tommy Ton – are respected and also recruited by the biggest fashion opinion leaders like Vogue, but bring also fresher, more independent perspectives, which will inspire fashion from the streets to consumers. Besides these influential people that are brought to us by our favorite fashion media outlets, we have many more independent well-developed street style blogs like Stockholm Street Style, Street Peeper or Altamira. It can be truly said that there is a street style blog for everybody – the problem mostly is just to find the right one.

A few weeks ago, I was in Milan at women’s fashion week. My personal objective was to take a lot of inspiring photos and enjoy high-end fashion at its best. At the Giorgio Armani show, Milan’s fashion week’s most revered event, I was able to capture fashion in the standard that is supposed to reflect the fashion of the moment worn by some of the biggest names in the business. This time, my project was to capture inspiring fashion but equally observe the other photographers at the spot.

The atmosphere was interesting and buzzing from the beginning; outside the venue there were close to 100 people, along with chauffeurs and policemen, most of them prepared with cameras representing either fashion medias, mainstream medias, or independent fashion sites or blogs. They all were there for the same reason – they wanted to capture unique fashion that they can share to the anonymous audience of the internet.

The noise of shutters closing was intense already when I arrived, 40 minutes before the show’s end. The crowd gathered in front was interestingly dressed as expected on a fashion week outing. Photographers were taking pictures of other people outside including photographers, fashion media people such as journalists, or people that were there just to catch the buzz. The goal and result were the same: no matter for what reason you are uniquely dressed, a photo taken of you can feed the audience hungry for inspiration that lives and enjoys the fashion week through the numerous photos available all over the internet.

Phony you might think, but the reasoning behind your dressing does not matter the fact that a photo of you can bring added value to a fashion media’s content. This brings us closer to the main question: what makes a great street style photo? We have many different styles to show fashion from the streets – The Sartorialist is known for his full-body portraits while Tommy Ton shows us more details and photos that represent the moment at the scene.

Finally after the show ended the photographers were greeted by powerful names in the fashion business, all of them dressed in outfits that were probably only ever seen on the first page ads of this month’s biggest fashion magazines. Basically all of them were positively aware why the photographers were there and they were motivated to smile or pose for the camera if asked, or in many cases presented themselves in a photogenic way even without the photographer’s interfering.

For the last hour the scene was pretty much a street style photographer’s heaven, in addition that the weather was perfect and the sunlight fondled the street. More or less all people had outfits that were meant to be captured to street style blogs or fashion sites’ “outside shows” reports. At the spot it was 100-percently in the photographer’s hands what kind of photos they ended up taking. One can’t really figure out who took photos that will definitely look special and which ones are average or lacking the feeling of the moment.

Pondering the elements that make the difference in the photos, fashion knowledge and spontaneous photographer skills are definitely crucial. The ability to find a perspective that looks special and makes the pictured person look good is also vital, as well as choosing the right moment that makes the person look good so that the whole photo looks almost like a fake. Whether you can tell real Pradas from replicas and being familiar with the faces of fashion world are also important elements for a street style photographer.

I want to summarize this experience with the following statement: since through street style photography we are supposed to rate the esthetics of the individual, dismissing the mental characteristics – we can only debate whether it is more the eye of the street style photographer or the pictured person’s style that make the photo special. Perhaps, as with any conventional photography, it is about the harmony and coherence between the object and the eye behind the lens that make the result unique.

Tuukka Laurila is a global mind with endless interests. Born in Switzerland, raised in Helsinki, educated in Tokyo and now working in Dublin; besides fashion his interests include various sub-cultures, brands and digital marketing. Growing up skateboarding and snowboarding, he’s been carrying a camera and a videocamera ever since. Sharing inspiration and imagery is his favorite way to express himself, which led him to curate his personal blog, Material World of Tuukka. The blog has been up and running since 2006 and has become one of Finland’s top menswear blogs. While blogging, he has the opportunity to travel the world and visit various fashion weeks globally. He has also cooperated with various brands, such as Nike and adidas Originals. Through working many years within the fields of digital marketing and branding, he has gained insight for business perspective and broadened his knowledge all while becoming heavily involved in online lifestyle media in Finland and an video street style blog pilot, Style the City.

Besides his blog, you can follow Tuukka through Twitter and Tumblr.

Date: Nov 3, 2011  /  Views: 4301  /  Author: Tuukka Laurila
Category: Editorial  /  Tags: Op-ed