Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shoot Me: A Behind-the-Camera Interview with The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman

The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman

When Luxe File Chicago learned that The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman would be hitting town to promote his second pictorial tome, The Sartorialist: Closer, we immediately emailed his publicist to schedule an interview. After a flurry of correspondence, we scored a cell number and a coveted spot on his busy book tour schedule - sandwiched between dinner in his hotel room and a sold-out speaking engagement at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

The Sartorialist: Closer

Fast forward to the interview. What began on a farcical note - seven calls to his cell phone, two failed voicemail attempts (we learned his voicemail hadn't been set up yet), an emergency plea to his publicist, then two more follow-up phone calls - ended in a Eureka! moment when we heard Scott's voice on the other end of the line. Moral of the story: diligence truly pays off.

Here, the celebrated photographer and Indiana native talks about fashion, photography, and the key to living luxuriously.

Your new pictorial tome, The Sartorialist: Closer looks deeper at human style around the world. How else does this book differ from your first book, The Sartorialist?
In the second book, the people and locations are different and there are more close portraits. Even the way I shoot is more diverse.

 Schuman captures a pretty subject in Milan

NYC is a beloved backdrop for you. What other cities inspire you photographically?
I really love Milan, Italy. If it’s 2012 here, it’s 1952 there. There’s an old-school elegance. Not done in a cheesy retro way, just in the manners and how people behave. There’s an old school romance about the city. I really enjoy it there. It’s my second home.

What characteristics do you look for in a subject?
I look at the person, their clothes and the setting. It’s about creating an image I feel is going to help people dream a little bit. I think that’s the most important thing at the end of the day.

How do you plan your day when it comes to shooting photographs? Is it regimented or purely organic?
In the last five weeks I’ve been to Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Costa Rica, New York, and Chicago. When you travel that much you can’t be regimented. You have to be very patient, humble, and go with the flow. It’s putting yourself out there like a leaf and letting yourself float.

How do you select a new city? Does it call to you?
The city isn’t as important as what it has to offer, whether something interesting or different.

The Sartorialist's Instagram post: 
"So happy to be back in Chicago, 
the city of so many of my first loves." 

G-d bless Wikipedia! We learned that you’re a Midwestern boy from Indiana. Were you excited to get back to Chicago?
I grew up in Indiana and have been to Chicago a lot. I have great memories of this city. In many ways, it’s very nice to come back. In other ways, it’s tough because it’s never the same as when you had that first love of it.

Any places you had to hit while in Chicago?
Most of the places that had really inspired me, like Ultimo and Rizzoli Bookstore, are gone so it’s about discovering new things. I like walking around the city, remembering the places I’ve been to at different times in my life and seeing how life has evolved from when I was standing in that same spot. 

Schuman attends a breakfast reception 
at Coach in Chicago
Your photos are the epitome of well-groomed style. What is your fashion philosophy?
It’s more about the true elements of design and less about labels. Like today, I am very happy with my outfit: an elegant green coat, grey gloves, and a beautiful scarf. I like mixing up a beautiful palette with different shades of colors. Also, I’m shooting outside all the time so I invest in a lot of outerwear.

Are we going to see you rocking an Adidas tracksuit anytime soon?
Actually, I wear a lot of Nike. I just bought a Nike windbreaker, which was part of a collaboration they did with [Japanese fashion designer] Jun Takahashi. It’s an athletic windbreaker but the print is so beautiful there’s no way I’m going to wear it running. Maybe I’ll wear it under a tweed coat, the combination of the printed nylon with tweed wool could be cool.

Jun Takahashi X Nike Gyakusou 
Collection Fall 2012

Celebrity or city dweller you’d like to photograph?
It’s not really the person but the mystery. That’s what keeps you moving forward. Being so focused on a particular person or thing takes your eye off of the surprise of what life can offer.

What is your secret to taking beautiful photos?
You have to be in the right mood and you should never feel the pressure of shooting something you don’t really believe in. The secret is having enough integrity and patience to wait until you feel it’s a good picture.

If you weren’t a photographer what profession would you pick?
A chef. My life as a street photographer can be crazy and unpredictable so the idea of being a professional chef – from knowing what you’re going to cook to exactly how many ingredients you’re going to need - seems very romantic.

Like Father, Like Daughter: Isabel taking 
photos during a shoot for Piccoli Magazine

If you were in a romantic mood, what dish would you prepare to impress someone?
If you ever ate my food you’d know there is NO impressing anyone! This is the food I learned how to make to feed my two little girls, my family.

The kind of food that makes you grow up big and strong.   

Most treasured possession?
We have a very nice art and photography collection. I love to look at them for inspiration. 

Model Man: Schuman stars in 
Gap's Fall 2008 Ad Campaign

Your accomplishments read like a bucket list: world famous blogger, fashion photographer, Gap model, and book author. What’s next on the horizon?
We’re working on a new project. We haven’t announced it yet so I can’t say what it is but it kicks the blog to the next level. The people I've talked to think it’s going to be pretty cool.

When will the project launch? 
Hopefully in the next couple of months. For the most part, it’s staying to true to what I do. I look at someone like [photographer] Bill Cunningham and think it’s great he’s been doing this for like 40 years. I don’t have any dreams of doing a designer collection. I don’t want a TV show. I would just like to go out and spend every day shooting and talking about fashion and style and the things I see when I’m shooting on the street. That’s all I want - to continue on this vein and to keep it evolving so that it stays fresh.

New York Photographer, Bill Cunningham 

Luxe File Chicago has dedicated its blog to the "love of living luxuriously". Finish this sentence, "When it comes to living luxuriously, always..."
Always know what you want.

Click HERE to purchase your copy of The Sartorialist: Closer.

Can't get enough of The Sartorialist? Check out 
Intel Visual Life's "day-in-the-life" short film of Scott Schuman below, directed by Tyler Manson. #beinspired

Photo Credits:
Photo of Scott Schuman courtesy of Mirkin
Photo of Scott Schuman at Coach courtesy of Justin Barbin
Photo of Scott Schuman for Gap courtesy of Mikael Jansson
Photo of Bill Cunningham courtesy of Scott Schuman

Written by Kerry & Sally Shorr 

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