Interview with New York-based Street Photographer Driely S.
Street photographers are known for capturing un-posed moments, interpreting life around them and challenging our perceptions of the world. Driely S., a Brazil born, now New York-based street photographer, is constantly finding herself chasing for that split second of cinematic moments.
(SQ – Savannah Qiu, DS – Driely S.)
SQ: When did your relationship with a camera begin?
DS: I first fell in love with photography through movies. I discovered cinema at the age of 14 and fell in love with all the classics. Back in Brazil, during high school, I had a chance to take darkroom classes and started studying the early photography works of Stanley Kubrick, Arnold Newman and Diane Arbus. Since photography was way more affordable and accessible to start with, I just kept on taking pictures while watching movies.
SQ: How many years have you been taking photos at fashion week?
DS: I have been covering Fashion Week for the last 3 seasons. Fashion photography is very recent in my life. I was not always into Fashion.
SQ: What camera/lens set up do you use to shoot with?
DS: For fashion week, I currently use a Canon 5D MarkII with an 85mm for streetstyle and a 24-70mm for Backstage coverage. That is my basic setup, but I am always experimenting with new things to keep the images interesting.
SQ: What inspired you to start shooting street photography, particularly during fashion week?
DS: To be honest, I only started shooting streetstyle as a way to network and make my way into shooting more editorial work. It seemed like an easy way in, to mingle with the fashion folks. I already admire streetstyle photography but I did not think it was something I would fall in love with shooting as much as I do now. What initially fascinated me the most about streetstyle, particularly during fashion week, was the possibility of making editorial like images when I did not have access to a team to work with. During fashion week I have access to the best models, latest runway garments, great hair and makeup just like on a real magazine editorial shoot set. I saw a huge potential and quality on the imagery that was being produced on the streets and I noticed the magazines opened up to this potential as well. So it only made sense to give it a try.
Nowadays I keep on shooting for the cultural value of it. Just like when I look at images from the 50s/60s and the past in general, and I find them inspiring and curious. I think people will look at these streetstyle images in the future and admire all the weird and cool cultural things that we have captured in these photos. Not just the clothes, but the cities, the cars, the streets and the era in general.
SQ: How do you determine who your shooting subject will be?
DS: I am lucky enough to have all the freedom in the world from my editors. They really let me run with it and shoot whatever I damn well pleased with and I am so grateful to them for that. I also do not make a living from shooting streetstyle photos, which means I really have full freedom to get artistic and not have to shoot specific streetstyle stars, the latest runway trend or plain head to toe portraits.
That being said, I think it is truly the attitude behind the outfit that catches my attention. It is really about the way the person carries themselves, the way they transform a mere garment in the extension of their personalities.
A lot of times I will take portraits of people who dress quite plain but who’s personality or work really inspired me. Grace Coddington mostly wears simple black garments to the shows, yet I find myself constantly come back to her for photos as I find her personality fascinating.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to different individuality.
SQ: What moments are you trying to capture during fashion week?
DS: All the cinematic ones. Streetstyle photography has this really special quality to it. To me it is like a constant chase for that split second when you can immortalize all the ethereal beauty of an ordinary street scene. It is rarely about the clothes, it is not about the latest Prada dress. It is about capturing that single moment with the interesting individual, with a special outfit, in a certain street, with the perfect wind blow. That feeling is what I want to capture with my photos. That is the thing that fascinates me the most about fashion!
SQ: Do you get any flack when competing with so many other photographers outside the fashion show venues?
DS: I try my best to always be nice to everyone around me. You got to have a lot of patience to shoot streetstyle these days. There are way too many photographers and a big lack of camaraderie among most of them. It is getting a bit violent in the sense of photographers pushing, elbowing and cursing each other out for photos. It is a bit sad, but you have to develop thicker skin. I remember going to my first NYFW and imagining how everyone was friends and receptive when in reality I got pushed by a fellow photographer outside the Marc Jacobs show and left that day with both of my knees and elbows bleeding and nearly broke my camera. The guy never even apologized.
Everyone outside the shows is usually exhausted from shooting all day under extreme weather conditions, and editing all night to meet publishing deadlines. So is only natural that everyone is constantly stressed out all week. But being nice goes a long way. People don’t really get anywhere by being rude. I even make sure to say “Hello” to my subjects and ask them how their day is going. And it all comes back to you. It always does, one way or another.
SQ: How do you differentiate your style from other photographers’ work?
DS: I think that is something I am still working on and trying to establish. I am not sure if I have figured that out myself yet. I have always been a big fan of Arnold Newman’s environmental portraiture and I think I want to somehow figure out a way to bring that more into my streetstyle work. I feel that after experiencing fashion week for three seasons, I finally found a sense of the dynamics of shooting the event and I am ready to start experimenting more. I needed those seasons to really observe and absorb those dynamics and the chaotic environment to see what can I bring in and how can I reinvent the whole thing from my perspective. I also want to bring in more of a cinematic approach to my streetstyle images, implementing odd compositions to create a movie alike scene.
SQ: Who’s the most responsive during fashion week? Models, attendees or editors?
DS: Models for sure! It is their job to be photographed and they know it so they are always super responsive. They take directions really well, and are always open to move around to give you a killer shot. Attendees are all over the place, depends of who they are and how late they are running. Some people live to be photographed at these things. They make sure they arrive early and stay outside of the venue for as long as they can, walk around so that no photographer can ever miss them. Kyle Anderson comes to mind, he loves the cameras. So does Anna Dello Russo, and we love her back. Miroslava Duma used to be like that, but has changed completely this past season after that whole “street style circus” debate. Now she wants to be taken seriously so she tries to avoid us. Some of the big editors just hate the whole thing and refuse to stop all together. Most of the attendees are nice and if you approach them cordially and they are not running late, they will stop. It all comes down to how nice you are when approaching people and having common sense to stop them at the right time, never when they are late!
SQ: Tell us one most memorable moment when shooting during past fashion weeks.
DS: One of the most memorable moments I think I experienced was during my very first NYFW, seeing Michelle Harper making her way in to Zac Posen show. She was so glamorous and it felt like such a big fashion moment to whoever was there. Michelle made quite the entrance that night. She had an emerald green gown, they were blasting Etta James songs during the show rehearsal as she was walking in and it all just looked so perfect and stunning. I could barely shoot. I remembered taking a step back just to look around and admire her odd beauty and her bold presence. She was like a star out of a movie.
Pictures above are Driely’s favourite ones from the past NYFW, click on each photo to reveal the shooting stories behind the scenes. For more of her amazing work, check out her website here.