Urban Fieldnotes

The current mode (probably set by the Sartorialist) of street fashion photographers is to share a single image of a person and the most details one can expect are the subject's name or just the street they were photographed on. More details are rare and little insight is ever given for context or the brief relationship between photographer and photographed. An exception to this rule is Urban Fieldnotes; a street fashion photographer based in Philadelphia but who also has shot NYFW. While most of his posts share a slice a conversation between him and the subject usually on personal style or music, occasionally his insights reveal even more of a moment we can't fully grasp from the picture alone. This is the commentary I keep going back for.
Backstage photographs have become standard during fashion weeks, but rarely are personal stories given. We merely see the models getting dolled up and forced into dresses and sometimes reading or drawing, but no one says what they're reading and no one asks if the hairstyle is painful or how many shows they have that day. Instead the dialogue revolves around the designer's inspiration. Backstage has merely become an extension of the show instead of a peek another world or actual "backstage view" showing us the unglamorous and more personal side of people involved in fashion. Prime example as highlighted in a post by Urban Fieldnotes, is Cara Delevigne. The now 20-year old started modeling as a teenager and is often as recognized for her penchant to make a funny face as her modeling gigs. People used to praise her youthful exuberance and willingness to act like a goof unlike many models who seemed to want to look older than their years and never be seen undone. However, as UF says in the post photographers now mob Cara outside of shows shouting, "make a face for us!" What once was a fun release and indulgence in childish behavior has become another way she is expected to be "on" and "working."
I remember from fashion shows how even during a runway presentation the photographers can get unruly. Sometimes they whistle at the girls when they approve of an outfit or shout "look up and smile!" if the model seems shy (as if being yelled out will produce a more friendly countenance). Similarly, many people are unaware that flipping off the camera is a way to avoid being printed in most newspapers or paparazzi magazines. It's considered a profanity and so when celebrities flip off the paparazzi it isn't merely a moment of anger, but rather a protective gesture--if a paparazzi can't sell the photograph then they might manage to get left alone for a few minutes. All of this to say: context is important. People often want to quote "a picture says a thousand words" but we so we are only getting half of the story. I really hope more photographers will share brief stories about their images, not just to tell us about the bad side that a model (or person) might be going through in that moment, but because it helps build a more complete story of that moment. Short stories and snippets of quotes from the subjects of photographs--that is a true backstage view providing more than a glossy extension of the runway and magazine editorials...
*all pictures by Urban Fieldnotes


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