Street photography and street style–is it dead?

Tom Albo argues over at Esquire that what passes for street style these days is too self conscious and preening to mean anything. The case can be made that the current crop of street style camera jockeys are fashion photographers more than documentarians of “what’s really going on,” but the case that true street style is ever truly “effortlessly cool” is specious. But, as Heisenberg might wonder, were he a Styleforum member, can you observe street fashion without affecting it? Albo defines real street style thusly: “a tough bag, good sunglasses, and solid footwear that helps you dodge the various slow and crazy people in the way… as effortlessly cool as Debbie Harry in the morning.”

Really, this is an excuse to post interviews with two of New York’s most celebrated street photographers–Bruce Davidson (his Brooklyn Gang series documented a group of poor, shiftless teens who happen to look cool as hell) and Ricky Powell (a hobbyist who was in the right place at the right time to catch the rise of NY hip hop on film)–excerpted from Cheryl Dunn’s in-progress documentary, Everybody Street (how meta). There may be a chasm between what these guys (street photographers) do and what The Sartorialist or Bill Cunningham (street style photographers) do, but does that mean “street style” is dead?

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3 thoughts on “Street photography and street style–is it dead?

    • There is “real” street style out there and I totally agree with Albo (and others) that what we see from the Sartorialist, Tommy Ton, and even on our blog courtesy the Grungy Gentleman doesn’t really meet the definition. These guys are shooting industry insiders who are often dressed to market themselves or their goods. On the other hand, once that’s clear, I think it can still be appreciated. I don’t mind looking at good photos of clothing reps, for example, I think it can be instructive and inspiring. And I love to see what guys like Glenn O’Brien are wearing, even if I understand they’re not “normal guys.” I think what Bill Cunningham does is at least a little more pure, but to get to truly inspirational, NEW stuff, you have to get grittier, like Davidson did decades ago.

  1. “Street Photography” will NEVER be dead. OTOH, I guess the same goes for
    “Street Style” as well. First off, the terms “Street Photography” and “Street Style” are extremely broad in meaning. What exactly defines Street Photography/Style ? Anyone that has access to a camera (hell even a mobile phone) that goes out on the street and takes photos of “whatever” can say they’re a “street photographer” (gag). As for Street Style, I completely agree with the above opinions that there is REAL Street Style but can anyone define that as well? What is the TRUE meaning of Street Style? IMO, Street Style is a style that has emerged more from improvisation and necessity rather than fashion. Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but I think the link between “Street Photography” and “Street Style” has more to do with PHOTO-BLOGGING current fashion trends on the street as opposed to either term singularly.

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