What ever happened to street-style photos? When did all those easy, breezy, life-affirming shots of men and women in cities all over the world, just going about their business in clothes they feel good in, turn into shots of try-hards desperate to be photographed?
Right now is New York Fashion Week, traditional season of the gazelle - and the peacock. Sure enough, my Instagram feed was chocka with portraits of long-legged young women in thousand-dollar shoes crossing the street outside the Lincoln Centre. Not even models, most of them, just random beauties, off to the shows every day, in Dior and Prabal Gurung and Moschino. They all looked amazing but they looked a bit samey also, scrolling through them.
I follow about a dozen well-known photographers and they were all uploading photos of the same kind of woman. She's got long silky hair, a rangy body and she turned up every day at Fashion Week in the same combination of stripes, heels and cut-away bustier.
Fair play to her, but where were the kooks, I wonder? Where were the weirdos? The mavericks, the free-stylers? There was one shot of a girl in a Spongebob Squarepants dress, and one of J Crew's Jenna Lyons in a pair of shiny Nikes. Where's Anna Dello Russo and her serpent sunnies when you need her?
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Not everyone can pull off outrageous style; not everyone wants to. But there doesn't seem to be much going on in the way of whimsy in New York, and not much personality on display even.
With the possible exception of Lyons in her mad trainers, and good old Susie Lau in floral Marc Jacobs, all the so-called street style looked weirdly polished and strangely boring. They didn't look like real women wearing clothes that they'd bought and chosen. All those outfits looked like what they were - PR hook-ups, mostly.
Now, it's naive to think that women don't turn up to Fashion Week in the best stuff they can borrow. I've done more than a few New Zealand Fashion Week gigs in loaners, and they made all the difference to the work I was doing. There's nothing better than an amazing dress to give you confidence for a special occasion. It's probably the same for the girls in all these photos. They may be bloggers, in which case they need to be their own best advertisement, a walking, talking billboard hoarding. They need to maximise the exposure the event offers, and being photographed is the best way of doing so.
But while it may be good business sense to wear the fanciest stuff you can get your hands on, that doesn't make it street style, not as we know it. Anyone who has seen the documentary about Bill Cunningham, the legendary, delightful New York Times street-style photographer, knows that style is something you cannot borrow. Cunningham has spent his life shooting people who know how to put together an amazing outfit. That's why he takes photos of transvestites and punks, as well as Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour. Real people, who dress to express their identity. There's plenty of them still out there, but Instagram may not be the place to find them.