Concerning Street Fashion . . .
above: Natalie Joos at Avenue de Tourville, Paris | 14.30 pm
Here’s a secret that I’ve not shared with any of my readers: I have a portfolio called Ashbury Fair. I started the portfolio back in early June when shooting commercially became more of a realistic happening, and I needed a more formal display of my street fashion work. I also decided while I was making it that I didn’t have very much editorial level work to show for, and so this became more of a focus as I went along. So in that sense, the Ashbury Fair (AF) series wasn’t an accident at all. The real question was how to make the photographs I took on the street look more editorial? As evidenced on many street style blogs on the internet, simply going after people who are wearing higher-end clothes is not enough–what makes a photo editorial (advertising aside) is a visual feel and overall aesthetic that in a way says, “This is better than your life.” Cheeky, I know.
So what distinguishes my normal street fashion photos from the ones that I catalogue as AF? Technically speaking, it comes down to the rendering; all of the shots that I designate as AF go through a uniquely different post-process. As photographers we rarely ever share our trade secrets, but my overall feeling for the end result is that this type of photo or portrait should be good enough stylistically and technically to belong in a magazine. Artistically speaking, I simply have it in my mind to frame the shot differently than how I would my normal street subjects for the blog. Obviously, there are exceptions to both the technical and artistic rules, as you will see in this post. As the blog has reached a great milestone today, I’d like to highlight some of the more notable frames from the series.
The process that I put photos through to render them as AF has been an ongoing, trial-and-error one, but the essence of it began with a specific tool in Photoshop that my good and reliable friend, Liska from aglassjar, suggested I should play with. (Ouick tangent but relevant side note: a year ago to the day, I wrote a lengthy post called Boys & Girls; in the post I examine a hypothesis that Liska had that questions whether or not certain strengths in photographs correlate with the gender of the photographer. Her hypothesis has been a major influence on the overall aesthetic fabric of the street fashion photos on this blog. Our conversations continually revolve around photography questions in a philosophical sense, and it’s been hugely beneficial to my growth.)
The photo above was the first of its kind; I rendered it to have something on the splash page of Ashbury Fair. Had I simply edited it as I did my other photos, I don’t think it would’ve been strong enough to feature on the blog, certainly not the portfolio. The photo below, on the other hand, represents the ideal AF street fashion portrait:
In the portrait above, the two fashionista friends are in a staged pose, which I believe was a first for me. On a transatlantic flight to London, I invested in fashion magazines and poured over all of the editorial ads. I didn’t know why I was doing it at the time other than to say it was something I should’ve been doing. Without this in my conscious, they simply would’ve been standing next to each other, as I’ve photographed countless tandems before them.
Here’s another example of a photo that didn’t look very special before I rendered it. I upload the frame with all of my other London ‘keepers’ last September simply because I liked how the sun had washed it out. It wasn’t until several months later when I was on a rendering kick that I decided to play with it out of pure curiosity. The result is a capture that feels equally dreamy and vintage.
Two of the major characteristics of the Minolta Rokkor lens are its ability to render bokeh and colour profile. I’ve said often than the Minolta producers a “painter-like” bokeh that rivals the Canon 85 f/1.2L. Sometimes though, things go awry with the Minolta because of its softness and the entire frame ends up looking like a painting. I hate that. But I loved this shot above at Le Grand Palais in Paris. In fact, there were quite a lot of street fashion frames that turned out this way in Paris, but I have been unable to duplicate that exact aesthetic anywhere else.
Below is the master frame from my very first editorial narrative, Dior.
The photo is of Natalie Joos as she reaches up to take a picture of the chaos behind me outside of the Christian Dior SS13 show. Because I shot this from the hip I don’t think she knows that I took the photo, unless of course she’d seen the post. For me, this portrait represents the perfect convergence of timing, framing and (later) rendering. It stands alone as the greatest fashion photo I’ve taken for Lord Ashbury.
This was rendered with the same process as the one for Hanneli Mustaparta (see below). I chose this one primarily because of the momevment and layering of the clothes. This wasn’t catalogued as an AF because all of the street fashion photos that I took on my first day of Paris turned out like this. It wasn’t until after the Dior spread that I made a more concerted effort to distinguish between the editing styles.
I was incredibly happy with the whole oversized fashion magazine quality effect—you know, the mags that have amazing images but non-glossy pages that fall apart as soon as they touch a raindrop . . . and back in the day when all of the photography was analogue, when those images were enlarged you could really see and feel it (as opposed to now, where we just add noise) . . . but these images weren’t taken with a professional full-frame camera, which just goes to show to you kids who are brand new to the game, it’s not necessary to drop several grand to take good pictures. Just go out and take ‘em with what you got.
The frame below is a great example of place and time:
I found this young woman sitting at the fountain at Trafalgar Square after I’d left Somerset House for a walk-around break from Fashion Week. (Turns out, she was American–what are the odds?) Not every photo I take benefits from AF rendering, but sometimes, as in this case, I’ll apply the extra work just to see how it turns out. I love how the colours sort of blend into each other without looking completely forced.