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At Close Range
A photographer’s sidewalk view of style around the fashion shows.
I remember the first time I walked up the steps to New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center a decade ago, armed with my camera and a new zoom lens I purchased just for this occasion. I had no expectations except for the fact that a friend of mine thought it would be a nice boost to my growing love for collecting portraits of strangers on the streets.
It was intimidating: The people hanging out around the shows were better dressed than anyone I had stopped on the street in weeks prior, and there was an energy of cool in the air, as if I had just stepped into a party that was out of my league.
I spent the day at a distance from just about everyone, and when I returned home that evening to look at my photos, a feeling of disappointment overcame me. Thinking the zoom lens would allow me to get in close ended up being a crutch for shyness.
I decided I would return with a small plastic 35 mm lens. It was cheap, but it was the lens I had been taking portraits with and it would require me to engage with people for the photo.
When I arrived the next day, the timing was incredible. As I passed the fountain in the middle of the courtyard, a show must have just let out, and I found myself swimming up a current of people scurrying in the opposite direction. It was all happening too fast, I had no choice but to pick up my camera and start.
As I sat later that evening and loaded the photos onto my computer, to my delight there was the singer Solange Knowles, the very first portrait I landed in focus.
About three years ago, I abandoned shooting traditional street style in favor of returning to the kind of street photography that excited me when I first started out: wider perspectives, greater depth of field, but, most importantly, as little posing as possible.
It is a discipline I picked up from browsing party photos on the internet. Pictures where people pose for the camera are almost always the least interesting ones. But I do love a proper portrait. It will always be the foundation of my work.