The Hunter and the Gatherer

Scott Schuman and Garance Doré approach their blogs from opposite directions. Together, they've changed the way the world sees street style—even if they don't like the term.

Published May 22, 2012
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Scott Schuman and Garance Doré—two of the Web's most prominent bloggers, boyfriend and girlfriend, and, as of June 4, CFDA honorees—are living, breathing, August Sander-adulating proof that you can make a career and a living off the nebulous entity called "street style." Scott stalks the streets by bicycle, shooting not only fashion insiders but kids, rakishly disheveled elderly gentlemen, and everyone in between. "You spend hours outside—it's like hunting," Doré says. Her subjects, by contrast, aren't just photographed: They're befriended, gossiped with, pumped for favorite vintage shops and coffee bars. If Scott hunts, Garance gathers. "She wants to interact with the person," he says.

However they may differ, their successes now run in parallel. Doré is considering her first book; Schuman is at work on his second, to arrive this fall. Together, they'll accept the CFDA's Media Award, the first bloggers to be so honored. They may object to the label of "street-style photographers." But they're a good part of the reason the label exists at all. On the eve of the awards, sat down with the duo to find out more.

What's your day-to-day life like? Do you shoot every day?

SS: Other people do this and they shoot very much at the shows—and that's great and that's very fashion. Where for me, that's an element of it, but also people on the street, people in different places. Still to this day, the most fun is just getting on my bike, going out, and shooting. Sometimes I don't get anything—yesterday I didn't get anything—but it's still that absolute search and challenge to go out and see someone.

GD: He really loves that. It's really his thing. I'm not like that. It's rough! You spend hours outside—it's like hunting. You're so frustrated. You don't like that comparison?

SS: No, I do. I like to tell her it's really rough. But basically I'm just going from shop to shop riding my bike around. It's not bad.

GD: He likes it. I hate to do that.

It must be like a marathon, I imagine.

SS: For me it's never the same day, because some days I'll go downtown, some days I'll go to Harlem, some days I'll jump on the train and go to Brooklyn. We travel a lot—just in the last month I've been to Hong Kong, Madrid, Berlin. But still the fun is not knowing; every corner you can turn around and it could be totally different people: an old person, a kid, a fashion person. But then the challenge is, you found them and you want to create a nice portrait. So do you shoot into the light, with the light? Do you put them out into the street? Against the wall? How do you put them into the context that they're in or take them out of the context?

How does your work differ from one another's?

GD: I don't have the same way of working, for sure. I shoot on the street, but I wouldn't go out of my way. I shoot on the streets [that] I go to. I very, very rarely see what I can shoot; it's always in the moment. That's why I never really call myself street style. It's more like pictures of my life and what inspires me.

You're more of a character in your blog. You're very personally involved, whereas Scott, you disappear behind the lens.

GD: For Scott, it's more like a point of view. Even though you don't see me on my blog, my print is really strong. And I'm talking to my readers [like] they are my friends, which I've always done. I really try to talk about what it is to be a modern woman.

It's interesting to think about the two of your blogs relative to one another. There are times, for example, when you shoot the same person, but the treatments are so different. For example, you both recently shot Japanese street-style photographer Rei Shito.

SS: I think we both take it on our own independent lines. I pretty much know what's coming up on her blog and who she's seeing and all that. But for the most part, we rarely have any problems; her vision is so strong and so clear that I don't really worry. She can shoot Rei and talk about Rei in a totally different way; she's more interested in the real people. Whereas I'm interested in the abstract of the person. The pictures I take of Rei are pictures of Rei.

GD: When I go to shoot somebody, I want to talk with them. And they want to talk with me. And so this morning I was shooting, for example: Half an hour was just shooting, and for an hour and a half I was talking.

SS: But that's how girls are. It's very much a women's thing.

When you shoot people that have been shot before, how do you keep it fresh? One thing that's really struck me about the rise of blogs like yours and those that have followed yours is that they've given rise to a certain class of editors and showgoers who are now photographed all the time and have become brands unto themselves. I'm interested if that is a challenge.

SS: When I started, there weren't that many people expecting to go to shows to be shot. They weren't going to build their career. Those people are unfortunately very obvious and really lend no mystique to me. How do I say this in a nice way? There's a lot of stylish Russian young ladies going and hanging out around at shows now that you aren't going to see on my blog. It doesn't draw my interest when they want it too much. [Once] Garance was going to shoot one of these Russian young ladies and liked her outfit on a particular day and asked, what's in your bag? And she goes, "Oh, nothing." And of course it was some designer bag—a really expensive bag and it's totally empty. To me, even though you can't tell it's empty in the picture I would know.

GD: It's one of the first reasons why I turned to video. I needed another way because this is becoming such a system and systems just scare me. I'm not inspired by the outside of shows. I love a lot of the people that are around fashion week. But the trend right now is to really be overdressed and that's never what I wanted to talk about on my blog. Sometimes I will do it because an overdressed person can have a little thing that is inspiring that you can do in everyday life. But if it's just a collection of trends and brands it's totally anti the spirit of the blog. I really want something that I feel, "Oh my God, I can do that!" And that's why I loved Scott's blog at the beginning, and what inspired me to work on my blog. I felt so divorced from magazines. I was far away; there was no way I could wear those shoes in my town. I was living in the south of France. I didn't have the budget to do that; I was a normal person, I was working. I loved to see that there were other people like me living in other cities and that they were stylish and living what I could imagine as a glamorous life. But not glamour like going to the Met ball.

SS: That's why I try to ride the bike from one show to the next. Because you can shoot anybody. The shows are very important but my bike ride from one show to the next can be just as important. A lot of the other blogs start off and to get a name they go, "Oh, I've got a picture of Anna Dello Russo" and "I've got a picture of this known person and this known person." I don't know if they don't feel the confidence to go after some of these others—because you have to have the confidence to say that this girl isn't dressed in designer stuff but she absolutely looks cool and I know I can take a picture of her to create the dream that I want. Some people feel strong enough to be able to do that, where other ones just want to get their blog known, so they're going after the names. But then you've got a whole bunch of them doing that and then they all just kind of eat each other.

GD: I think we're really on the wave of that trend, and then it's going to go away. So I think street style—fashion street style, which should have it's own name—will maybe quiet. And then it's going to be easier to talk about style around the shows. Because there are a lot of editors that dress down now because they don't want to be bothered.

You see so many people clearly wearing things that aren't theirs, that they couldn't, or maybe even wouldn't, buy. It starts to look like they're wearing advertiser credits, which is the problem I always have with magazines.

GD: Exactly.

SS: But then you look at it and it's like there's not that charm to it. If you're just wrapping yourself in the security of a bunch of designer names, it comes off in the photograph. It lacks that uniqueness as opposed to someone who has the balls—or not balls. Whatever girl things are.

GD: Girl balls.

You've both been very celebrated, and not only by the CFDA, for what you're doing. But do you have to contend with people being negative, too?

SS: Garance is a little softer, she's more sensitive. People not agreeing with what she says hurts her feelings more. I'm less so, I think; I like creating a conversation. When I started the blog I was listening to ESPN sports radio, and a lot of the concepts of creating the conversation came from there. It doesn't bother me so much that people disagree with me, or if I say something that people get upset by, if it leads to an interesting conversation. Whether it's fur or smoking or flip-flops…Flip-flops are really a divisive issue. Who would have thunk?

I would believe that, in fact.

SS: When you look at it as a historical thing, I love that the blogs are able to capture that. Wouldn't it be great to go back and look at an old Lartigue photograph and see what people at that time thought were divisive about them. Like, "Oh my God, veils! I hate veils!" Yeah, it's a pain in the ass when people are tough or say mean things about us. But it doesn't bother me that much. It's weird—whenever I'm in a bad mood and I feel bad, that's when I go to look and see what mean things people say.

There was so much talk when it was said you were on track to becoming the first million-dollar blogger. Are you? And was there any fallout from that or was it just sort of business as usual?

SS: There wasn't really any fallout—no more than usual. I'm proud, because I know I've done it the right way. The blog is clean. I mean, we can come up with other ways if there's someone that wants to advertise. Everyone else has their own site.

Now that you've been doing this for several years, do you notice a new generation of photographers emerging?

SS: I think we're right on the cusp of the next generation. I think all the big major photographers came at a time when they all wanted to shoot for print—you couldn't imagine their photographs not on print. Probably the only one who seems like a younger generation that's big big is Terry Richardson. You can see he does just as much for his blog [as for print]; he's one of the few that takes a lot of shots knowing that they're going to go on the Internet and communicate that way. I think we're right on the cusp of the new generation saying, "I've always thought of my pictures being on the Internet." I mean, pictures on the Internet are pretty beautiful. It's like looking at a photograph on a light box. So I do think there's going to be a next generation. Not only will there be street-style blogs on the Internet, but more editorial sites that are Internet-driven. I'm a little surprised by how many people still want to open up new print magazines. Because you really have to wonder, what is your real reason for doing that? I think we're just at the cusp of a new group coming up and doing it in a totally different way. Almost like music. I mean, are albums important anymore? I think you can be a huge artist and maybe only do a couple singles; I don't know if all your songs have to come out in groups of 12. So I think we're close to seeing a new way of music and fashion and photography.

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