The State of Street Style Photography: What’s Ahead?
Street style photography has undeniably become a popular genre within the fashion industry in recent years. The work of street style photographers has been praised for its ability to capture the unique styles seen on the streets and right outside major fashion shows around the world.
In anticipation of Copenhagen Fashion Week, we decided to investigate the current state of street style and what makes it so popular amongst fashion enthusiasts and brands alike. We spoke to two street style photographers: Søren Jepsen from The Locals based in Copenhagen and Antoine De Almeida a French photographer based in Berlin, to get a deeper understanding of the industry and where it’s headed.
The history: Street style photography then
Bill Cunningham is considered by many of his peers as the pioneer in street style photography. The widely respected photographer for the New York Times and Chicago Tribune has helped shape the industry thanks to his pictures depicting New Yorkers in the 1960s. Later on, Tommy Ton’s work for Style.com and GQ.com finely portrayed the last decade of street fashion. Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) also largely contributed to the development of this form of photography on the internet thanks to his blog.
Søren was amongst the first photographers to start a blog dedicated to street style in 2007: “Back then, street style was about ‘real people’ on the streets, regular folks with a great sense of personal style and it had nothing to do with fashion weeks and the fashion business. It was also mainly focussed on one city at a time. Copenhagen and its great style deserved its own street style blog. And thus, my first website Copenhagen Street Style was born.”
Antoine started snapping people in the streets a few years later in 2014. At that time, street style had reached its momentum: “Since I started, the number of street style photographers probably tripled, or even more. It’s crazy to see some shows with more photographers outside than attendees inside. And I was already very late to the game compared to a lot of my colleagues, but it’s a discipline that keeps growing exponentially.”
With the ever-growing crowd of photographers waiting outside of fashion shows, it’s become more apparent that street style photography can be turned into a profitable business. But this also means a change in the subjects that are photographed. How did the main point of focus move from the alleys of Paris, New York, and Milan to the front doors of major fashion shows?
The shift: How did street style photography evolve?
As we are now living in the image-centric age of Instagram, the focus that used to be on everyday people has shifted. Today, the forefront of street style images are dominated by influencers, and fashion industry insiders. And the shots taken of this special crowd are most certainly as influential and valuable as those of the models on the catwalks. “[…] Street style photographers need to get pictures of certain influencers to fulfil their clients’ wishes. And those pictures tend to be the most popular with the photographers’ audience, too.” Søren says.
And as it turns out, the refreshing styles and spontaneity that street style photographs exude have also caught the eyes of many fashion magazines and brands. Collaborations between influencers, brands and street style photographers is a reality that keeps expanding. Antoine explains why: “I think people still enjoy watching the shows and seeing the new styles season after season. But it can get a bit monotone. I think street style opened a new door in terms of showing the world how you can combine styles and brands, and how to wear something in real life, which someone who’s never been to a fashion show can relate to much more easily.”
Søren agrees and further explains: “As the street style blogs got bigger, the publishing industry noted the appeal of those images. For readers and consumers, it is inspiring to see ‘real people’ wear cool clothes ‘out in the wild,’ so street style started to appear in some magazines. And as those magazines wanted more specific trends depicted, the photographers started attending fashion weeks.”
The future: Where is street style photography heading?
So, what now? Here’s what Søren and Antoine had to say about the new meaning of street style photography:
Søren: “By now, the term ‘street style’ has taken on a new meaning […] it doesn’t depict regular people anymore, but instead editors and influencers and members of the fashion industry that are dressing in a specific way because they know they will be photographed. Street style has become a big part of today’s aesthetic in the fashion industry, as big houses and retailers use the look for their lookbooks and advertisements.”
Antoine: “I deplore the fact that now it’s more used to sell a product rather than to promote style and diversity in fashion. Companies now understand the value of having their product in every street style picture and we can’t blame them for using it. But sending an influencer in a full look from a brand that they didn’t even choose or style themselves, is inauthentic. […] I trust some photographers share my views on the subject and will keep shooting ‘real’ styles. I try as much as I can to find authenticity, a true challenge in the fashion world…but it still exists!”
However, they both agree that the candid photography style is what still gives the most authentic appeal to the genre:
Antoine: “Street style is the opposite of shooting in a studio, with controlled lighting, a model posing, etc… I love the authenticity, the rush, the constant adaptation to weather conditions and light.”
Søren: “Street style started as something authentic, it still has some of that feel to it even though situations might be staged, or at least more planned than before. A lot of it is in the technical details: pictures taken outside, in natural light, will always look more authentic than those shot in a studio.”
The meaning of authenticity in Street Style photography may have shifted but it remains one of the most popular means of showcasing diverse fashion styles in our digital era.
You can find Søren Jepsen’s upcoming schedule on thelocals.dk. Antoine De Almeida is currently focusing on architecture photography and his career in fashion buying but will be attending Paris Men’s Fashion Week in January 2020.
Meet the Experts
Søren Jepsen is currently working as a full-time photographer across the globe and is a resident street style photographer for many international Vogue editions. His line of work also includes shooting fashion editorials for various other publications, brands and clients.
Antoine De Almeida is a French photographer based in Berlin. His interest in street style photography first sparked through skateboarding, streetwear and sneaker culture. Antoine currently enjoys attending fashion weeks as a side gig while combining it with his main career in fashion buying.
Ines is the French Fashion and Design Researcher at VOCAST. After spending most of her life on the beautiful African continent she has chosen Copenhagen as her home-base. A self proclaimed “beauty addict”, she previously worked in the beauty industry and is now exploring her passion for digital marketing, fashion PR and design.
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