Thursday, 21 January 2010

Amy Arbus & Bill Cunningham: influential street style photographers

I have been looking at some of the original street style photographers that may have influenced photo-blogs such as The Sartorialist. The two photographers who stood out to me were Amy Arbus and Bill Cunningham. 

Between 1980 and 1990 Amy Arbus (daughter of Diane) shot portraits on the streets of New York for a regular column in the Village Voice's monthly fashion feature: On the Street.

But was she a direct inspiration? In an interview for Dazed Digital, Scott Schuman (the photographer behind The Sartorialist) indicated otherwise.. 

‘She would shoot the punks and the most dramatic people. Which is great but I don’t really relate to that. What’s different about what I do is I shoot something that is aspirational and something that people can really relate to.’ 

Although Schuman is right in suggesting that Arbus typically photographed 'dramatic' subjects, the image below shows a woman who could definitely be described as 'aspirational', shot in a style that could easily be compared to Schuman’s photography.

So what about Bill Cunningham, who started photographing people on the street during World War II and continues to do so today?

The main difference between Schuman and Cunningham is their individual visions of the perfect subject. Whilst Schuman photographs people wearing desirable outfits, he also looks for people who carry themselves well or have a certain presence. In his book, also named The Sartorialist, he describes his reasons for shooting the subject below...

‘His ability to carry off this look so well was not about the coat itself but how he wore it with a cool nonchalance.’ 

On the contrary, Cunningham purely photographs people because he notices their clothes. In an article he wrote for the New York Times back in 2002 he writes..

‘I don’t see the people I photograph. All I see are the clothes. I’m only interested in people who look good.’ 

Whilst Schuman does not admit to being directly influenced by Cunningham’s work, he acknowledges there are some similarities and respects the work that Cunningham has produced throughout his career. In his book, he also says...

'If I am ever able to carry on in his tradition, it will be because I am able to capture street style not with a photographer's eye but with a fashion editor's eye, and that is what Bill has done so successfully at The Times'. 

 (Both images of Cunningham were photographed by Schuman)

No comments:

Post a Comment