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‘The thing that London does more than anywhere else is that it’s-so-bad-it’s-good thing,’ he tells me.
‘In New York, the girls want to be perfectly manicured and de-haired.
English girls love to find the most awkward thing and challenge concepts of beauty.’ A diminutive and somewhat shy Midwesterner, Schuman first started photographing stylish people in 2005 and has gone on to pioneer a genre that combines reportage with a fashion editor’s eye and an upstart sensibility.
‘He’s a historian, marking the feelings of this generation one photo at a time,’ said an early subject, Kanye West, back in 2009.
While we already knew blogging could be a potentially lucrative career, the award signifies that it can also be considered a legitimate one, deserving of high-profile recognition in media as a whole.
The award also comes at an interesting time for the medium of street style--which has changed quite a bit since Schuman started The Sartorialist, with dozens of new photographers popping up every fashion week and show-goers dressing up with the sole purpose of becoming a part of the spectacle.
However, he says he’s not in it for the money: ‘My dream is to capture a great catalogue of how we looked over 30 years or so.’ At last, someone catches his eye: a thickset Indian guy wearing a navy pinstripe suit cut off at the elbows, clutching a vintage Louis Vuitton bag. (He has a no-fat cappuccino with an extra shot and sweetener, explaining to the waitress that he has to work until 11pm that night; outside of the fashion weeks, he’ll spend around five hours a day wandering around looking for people to shoot.) Schuman comes from a small town in the same part of Indiana that produced James Dean, Michael Jackson and his old university friend Angela Ahrendts, who was, until recently, the head of Burberry and is now, as senior vice president of Apple retail and online stores, the highest-paid executive in America.
His early images helped to spread the fame of fashion darlings such as Anna Dello Russo (the eccentric editor-at-large of Vogue Japan) and Giovanna Battaglia (the heart-stoppingly chic model turned editor of L’Uomo Vogue).
‘When I take these pictures, I don’t want to know the facts. He keeps his captions minimal (never mentioning anything vulgar such as labels or prices) leaving you wondering: Who is this person? He says it has been amicable and that they still keep in touch. She’d say: “I don’t want to go out with a guy wearing orange pants,” so I stopped wearing orange pants.’ They were very similar in character, but in the end it was the differences that counted: ‘She’s from Corsica. ‘I don’t want to talk about it that much — I don’t want another public relationship.
It takes a lot out of you.’ Still, I sense that he’s more comfortable in his skin.
While he was always interested in fashion, he says he only picked up a camera for the first time when they had children (Isabel, now 16, and Claudia, 13).
‘There’s something about children’s sincerity, their purity of emotion,’ he says.