With Paris Fashion Week happening with right now, let’s turn our gaze towards an emerging form of photography that is becoming more mainstream in pop culture — street style. You’ve probably seen this type of photos in magazines, blogs (like The Sartorialist and Face Hunter), and social media. In our own community, we spotted a budding new photographer, Roberto Campos
, who has an eye for capturing on-trend and colorful street style. His page even includes some fashion show backstage candids.
We recently sat down with Roberto, and asked him about his thoughts on fashion, what it’s like to snap some stylish people during Fashion Week, and his favorite gear. If you’re curious about photographing street style, then read on!
Hello Roberto! I understand you just got back from Paris Fashion Week. What was your craziest Fashion Week experience while shooting street style so far?
Honestly, Fashion Week is a time where reality distorts entirely. People behave in a way people don’t in the real world. Things that seem normal there are not normal four blocks away. The craziest thing of them all would be the amount of suffering some of these girls put themselves through — physically speaking. You see them in photos smiling and looking gorgeous in front of the cameras, on a mini skirt when it’s freezing cold outside, and it’s better if it’s windy because then, their hair moves and it looks nice. Then when the show is over, and the crowd dilutes or migrates towards the next location, these girls curse their feet, maybe change shoes to some sneakers a good friend has been carrying around for them all day, and go inside the first Starbucks they spot just so they don’t freeze to death. All for what? I wonder. This obviously only happens during the cold-weather Fashion Weeks. The ones during summer are more forgiving. But to this day, this just puzzles me. I wear sweaters, jackets, and coats — scarves too — and some of these girls go around as if it was the hottest day of the year. I don’t know if the attention they get is worth it or not.Personally, I think fashionable people can be chic and warm at the same time.
Head-to-toe look: Givenchy wedge boots with turnlock detail, tweed moto coat, and a bright lip.
Wow. That sounds intense. Why are you drawn to shooting street style in the first place?
Christmas of 2011 was the day I gave myself the gift of photography. I got myself the Sony NEX-5, my first “real” camera. Before then I got to admit I knew close to nothing about photography. I knew Josef Koudelka’s photo of the black dog walking on the snow mesmerized me to no end, and that it is my favorite photograph of all photographs, but I did not understand why. I started photography for two reasons: Architecture school is a place where you need a decent camera, one of the only places I know where using your phone to quickly snap something important is just not acceptable, one lives and dies by the size of their DSLR even if 99% of people shoot automatic. Secondly, my significant other’s passion for fashion. She runs a pretty amazing fashion blog called OntoMyWardrobe
. At some point I started helping out with her photography needs. I started being the Plus One to a few events here and there, and getting familiar with what fashion photography was, what studio fashion photography is, and what street style is, but also I finally was understanding what photography is — to me at least. And then I realized that most of the “street style” you see out there is not photography; it is just snapshots of looks and trends, which is totally fine, but not what I saw myself doing with my photography. I decided I wanted to shoot street, like those journalists of yore, going around with a rangefinder, not asking people to stop and pose but just shooting. Timing and framing and composing in a heartbeat. And I wanted to combine that with street style photography, making photos that are not just about the clothes, but also about the picture being a good photograph overall.
I don’t crop my pictures and I don’t use anything other than color correction. I want it to be a halfway compromise between shooting digital, and pretending I am not. Street style for me is half being a good photojournalist, and half having a good eye for spotting interesting people and fashion.
It is also exciting and very personal.
Photographed from left to right: YouTube fashion vlogger Chriselle Lim and superstar style blogger Aimee Song of Song of Style.
"(Street style) requires no crew, no lights nor flashes, no reflectors, and no assistants. It is just you and your weapon of choice out there, trying to figure out the boundaries of just how far you can go to get a photograph — without making people notice you and turning around."
- Roberto Campos
A head-to-toe stylish gent and his best friend.
Sounds like you found your passion. Out of all the Fashion Week locations — New York City, Paris, Milan, London — which city is your favorite to photograph?
I have only attended Fashion Week in Milan, Paris, and Mexico so far. I think of them as tennis tournaments — you’ve got the four grand slams: New York City, London, Milan, and Paris, and then the rest, not as important and not the same, but they are what they are. Being based in Milan makes it easier for me to move around. I know where things are, and which are the good locations to shoot. It is great but I have to say — just because the added thrill of traveling, and having to switch subway lines to try to make it on time to a show — that Paris is my favorite of those. In Paris, certain shows get “secret locations” disclosed only to guests and insiders prior to the events. You feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes trying to get a bite out of your phone contacts. Everybody likes winning playing as the guest team, I guess.
A model waits backstage during Milan Fashion Week.
What are your favorite fashion trends to shoot?
Thanks to the fact that I regularly shoot fashion bloggers, I tend to be somewhat informed on what is hot and what is last season. Fashion seems to work as a chain of command starting with the big brands selling a trend and it watering down until you can find basically the same kind of thing a year later on your local cheap clothing store for next to nothing.
I tend to avoid photographing people wearing looks I have seen before. Sometimes, it becomes an army of girls wearing the same kind of looks, and that’s how you know that is not “in” anymore. I shoot the looks I haven’t seen before — the looks that make me go “Wow, that’s something else!” Find the randomness in the crowd. Like a needle in a haystack, there will always be someone who somehow thought of something before everybody else did, and she doesn’t even know it yet.
A modern twist on the little black dress.
What do you think of famous street style blogs like The Sartorialist or Street Peeper?
I have mixed feelings about The Sartorialist. I used to look at it, but I think it got to the point where everybody did, and on every other street style site you would go, they had the same exact people, the same exact outfits. Less quality photos, but you get the same content. So he changed and now tries to post things that are unique to his site, started doing more editorial-like things, and relying more on his random street finds. I think he had a good eye for spotting new trends, but somehow got too big, too commercial, and he started shooting the same people, people he knows already, people he says hi to outside the shows. He stopped spotting people, and then it became a site I don’t visit often at all. It doesn’t take it away from him — his blog is the Vito Corleone of street style blogs, don’t get me wrong; it’s just something that doesn’t inspire me anymore. Recently, I discovered the Face Hunter, and I’m enjoying the ride. It’s something fresh for me, more interactive, and he also posts other things — things he does, things he sees. Watching him go around during Fashion Week, you can tell he has fun doing it. Somehow it feels more real to me. You know who is behind the lens. You take the decision to trust this person to show you what he thinks is cool. I like this approach better, and hopefully it will catch on, so these photographers get recognized by their abilities as content producers as much as regular fashion bloggers do.
A classic cold-weather chic look.
What advice would you give to aspiring street style photographers?
This is a very difficult question I must admit, since I consider myself also an aspiring street style photographer to begin with. The best advice I ever got said something like, “f8, and be there.”
I seldom shoot f8, but that’s the less important part of the idea. A lot of people think street style photography is for those with amazing equipment, expensive cameras, and massive lenses, but it’s not.
Today, cameras are good enough that if you know yours well you can make do in most situations. The hardest part is being there, and I’m not talking only about traveling or attending events. Going out to the streets, walking for hours on end with a camera in hand, with your finger on the trigger, ready to react is something that takes certain amount of commitment. And commitment is the focal point of street style photography.
One cannot just rely on shooting Fashion Week or events — one needs to roam the city, know where the cool kids hang out, know the streets you’re more likely to find someone interesting, and which streets have the good light at which times. Street photography takes practice more than anything. Luckily, or unluckily, the only way of practicing is actually doing it — going out there and shooting. Some days you might get nothing, but perseverance is key in this game. Street style is a lot about waiting and spotting things going on, anticipating, framing, and finally photographing. I guess it’s a bit like hunting in the city if you want to look at it that way. So my advice is to go out there and don’t give up. Maybe bring a friend; it can get lonely at times.
Stylephiles make friends in between shows.
What are your go-to cameras, lenses, and gear?
Finally, after much research and sleepless nights looking at reviews, I recently upgraded from a Sony NEX-5 to a NEX7! In all honestly, the whole NEX line is just fantastic. You get the specs and features you would on a semi-pro DSLR in a pocket-friendly size. I wouldn’t mind a full frame RX1 or A7r, but brand-new toys are pricey and for me the upgrade would seem marginable. I mount an old Canon FD 50mm f1.4 lens from 1971 I took off a Canon A1 on it via a converter and shoot manual focus. Mirror-less cameras are heaven for old glass. Manual focusing seemed like a challenge at first, especially for someone trying to get into street photography. But after a while, it becomes less frustrating and more fun. It also gives you a degree of control over what you’re doing that you don’t feel when auto-focusing. It feels like you’re playing a First Person Shooter videogame, and have half a second to make the shot because either you make it or it’s gone — and it better be in focus! This setup gives me the feeling of shooting with an old rangefinder, while letting me shoot digital for a wallet-friendly alternative to film. Lets just say it’s my rendition of a poor man’s Leica, and I am delighted with it.
Street style star and editor Olivia Palermo decked out in monochrome and fur.
We love having thoughtful people like you in our community. Thank you for participating in this interview and for continuing to share your amazing street style experiences with us. Last question is about 500px! Who is your favorite photographer in the 500px community?
ROBERTO: NIKLÅS KRAUTHÄUSER
blows me out of the water each and every time. I added him on Facebook, and even though we have never really talked — my German is rusty at best — I always look at his new photos. He does with portraits what I wish I could do; a genius if you ask me. I hope he doesn’t mind the plug.
Follow Roberto Campos to see more of his street style adventures.
What are your thoughts on street style photography? Do you have any questions for Roberto Campos that you would like to know more about? Know of any other street style photographers on 500px?
Let us know in the comments below.