#Book review: ‘The Sartorialist: Closer’, Scott Schuman
It’s been quite some time since I’ve been meaning to write a book review. But the books I’ve been reading lately, not surprisingly enough, are so academic, so methodologically directed, so theoretically accurate, so… Well, academic.
It’s not fair to put you guys in such a position of facing an academic book review, not here, not now, wonder why? ‘Cause I’m not in the mood for it. Simple as that.
Today I’ll talk about a book that has scarcely no writing at all, a book that every grown up today would have loved to read at school: a picture book! Ha! Joking. The book is the super-powerful photographer Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist: Closer. If you want to actually see one of his works, and you live here in London, go to the V&A Museum (I’m actually sort of addicted to this museum lately) or if you’re too lazy to go out, or far away form London or Tokyo (the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum to be precise) just go for www.thesartorialist.com and you’ll know what we’ll be talking about here.
In this magical (technological) age of fashion’s-on-the-street-blogs, Scott’s work is an oasis of creativity and uniqueness; he’s literally the pope of street style photography. The book is a collection of his photographs from the past three years, carefully selected by him, an act that stands alone as a strong argument for you to go and buy or see it personally/physically in a book shop. The pictures need no words, they’re strong statements of Scott’s personal quest for people that are statements themselves. His careful eyes (lens!) captured people from all sorts of types, from the cute and relaxed Japanese girl Rei Shito, to the Mennonite girl from Pennsylvania, and in between lots, lots (lost!) of wonderful random people, and, of course, the colorful and sometimes glamorous fashion icons such as the always-sparkling Anna Dello Russo, the once glittered Bryan Boy, and Scott’s own sweetheart the French illustrator Garance Doré. Sometimes you can see photos of the same people taken in different days and occasions, and sometimes he gives small titles to guide your reading of some pictures like ‘Italian girls’, ‘On the street…’, ‘The myth of effortless chic’, etc. Under ‘The design diet’ (p. 442) he literally shows us how dressing rules that up to today are in the ‘style books’ of many narrow-minded people (that might includes us sometimes, sadly) can be elegantly broken or even demystified.
But what about this book? You ask me. It’s delicious. That’s the best word to describe it, I guess. All of the photos are in constant dialogue, his work makes much more sense when you see how he wants the pictures to state for themselves and with each other; it’s incredibly diverse and full of curiosity. You can almost entitle the photos yourself, and I believe this is one of his intentions (a hidden one). Some people are amazing just by the strangeness they cause to eyes used to normativities and stupid social dressing codes. Dressing is cool here and, more than that, it’s fun!!! In Scott’s own words
‘the most stylish people I know have spent their lifetimes searching for what complements their body shape, their professional and personal lifestyle, local climate and how much they can reasonably budget for this pursuit. Let me stress that this is not about how much money they have, but how attuned they are to their reality. It’s an almost zen-like sense of self-awareness’ (p. 183).
Do I really need to say anything else? When you read statements like this, and his account of how much struggle he had to face to find his place in the fashion (artistic) world where so much stigma still (and will continue to) label people. And here’s another thing I find unique on his collection: how he plays with gender! And, let’s face it, fashion is the place to take gender into a joyful game and turn normativity upside down! I love masculine pieces in women, for when I see (and particularly wear) them I feel ‘that woman is so ridiculously feminine!’, and many of his pictures show that. Peopling eating, carrying moving boxes, chilling between one fashion show and the other, or resting after lunch, people in uniforms (!), identity statements in ethnic details (I found this particularly strong in the Asian people you see in the book) and the list can go on and on. The best part: no labels! Seriously, this is his great achievement. And Scott’s matured. His focus is changing and, although I really do despise this word, it is evolving. From a guy that was mostly working on people outside the gates of fashion weeks, he progressively started to notice style and self-awareness everywhere. Thus ‘the pope of street style’, although (and this might sound bitter) street style has almost become a uniform itself specially with the tons of (stupid, sorry) information that shallow and immature girls (yes, a bit of harshness with my own gender) spread and advocates in thousands of equally shallow and not-a-little-bit-creative blogs. Oh, blogs are a trendy business nowadays, haven’t you noticed?
Anyways, I strongly recommend you this book. I bought it, I’m reading it constantly, turns out it takes much more to read pictures than words, at least for me. Be creative when you read it, make connections with your own experiences and let the photos speak to each other (like they do), let go of the normativities and frozen social stigma that hinders your reading, let’s face it, we all need to let go of them, right?
My favorite picture? (sighs) Tough choice. So up here’s a petit selection of some of my favorite ones.