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His photographs are like questions

The Sartorialist aspires to emulate the mystery and calm of Steve McCurry’s photojournalism

September/October 2015

Scott Schuman is an American photographer, better known as The Sartorialist, the original street-style blogger. Steve McCurry, 65, is an award-winning American photojournalist. His picture of an Afghan girl with green eyes made the cover of National Geographic in 1985

I first became aware of Steve’s work after I’d been working in the fashion business for 15 years. I was a stay-at-home dad at the time and I thought to myself: “What a great job – to take pictures all day long.” He inspired me to do what I do now.

I actually got to know him a little over the years and he’s not how I expected. He’s very refreshing and modern. He seems so bound up with film photography that you might suppose he’d have taken up digital photography only grudgingly, but he’s not like that. He isn’t precious about his equipment and process at all. I once asked him if he’d ever publish an iPhone picture and he said, “Oh yeah. Of course.” What is important to him is the communication: his images start a conversation. In the old days, with early photographers such as Edward Weston, it was all about photos being printed and put up on walls. Pictures only ever moved in one direction. But it’s different now and Steve is part of that. That communication aspect is addictive to me.

There’s such a simplicity and sweetness to his pictures. He manages to catch pieces of real life but in an elevated way: those quiet, special moments. His timing and technique, his skill with getting the best light and composition, are fantastic. Of course you immediately think of the Afghan girl, but so many of his images have that quiet composition and setting. One of my favourites is of an Indonesian girl standing in water up to her chest, by a fence in a front yard during monsoon season. When you see it you’re worried for her, but she looks calm. That mystery is what I aim for in my photographs: yes, fashion is there, but I also want to pull you in and make you wonder about that person. That is Steve’s special talent: his photographs are like questions. 

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