3 Tips from a Street Style Photographer: Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Eva Chen outside of Tory Burch

Instagram hot child Eva Chen poses for a photographer following Tory Burch’s SS 16 show at Lincoln Center.

It’s New York Fashion Week, and people are hungry.

The designers are hungry for praise. The show attendees are hungry for attention from the press. And the models? Well, you get the idea.

For fashion editors, celebrities and bloggers, Fashion Month is a marathon of transatlantic flying, Instagramming, Snapchatting, Tweeting, party going, taxi hailing and story filing. Photographers have all of those responsibilities plus some—chasing members of the fashion elite. For these men and women, what goes on outside the show is more important than what happens within them.

Daniel Bruno Grandl, official Net-A-Porter photographer, feels it is crucial to maintain a healthy diet during Fashion Month. Extreme stamina, quick footing and a keen eye for street style are fundamental for the success of a fashion photographer during the whirlwind month of shows and soirées.

“You burn a lot of calories. If you only eat a lot of junk food, it’s not healthy because we only get a few hours of sleep a day. You can’t eat candy and chocolate and pizza,” Grandl said. He is also the founder of street style site The Urban Spotter, and has photographed the likes of Poppy Delevigne, Chiara Ferragni and Miroslava Duma, among others.

There is a particular timetable to shooting the shows. Transport to the show via taxi or Subway. Arrive minutes before the attendees. Take test shots, using fellow photographers as models. Attendees arrive. Shoot. Show begins. Chug water. Show ends. Shoot. Chug water. Shoot models leaving. Repeat.

At Pier 94, in the 15-minute window when Phillip Lim debuted his Spring/Summer 2016 collection and celebrated a landmark 10 years in the industry, photographers lounged on the concrete, taking turns misting their faces with Evian mineral water spray as the show’s bass thumps reverberated off the metal siding of the warehouse walls.

The next day, at the corner of West 26th Street and 11th Avenue, a clique of shutterbugs discussed how many Red Bulls and coffees they’d consumed. At just past 11 a.m., the general consensus was three caffeinated beverages each. Around the corner, at Corso Coffee on 27th Street, others threw back their respective poisons as carpenters wait for the go-ahead to build the set for Kanye West’s surprise show.

“Normally I drink a lot [of coffee], but not during Fashion Week. It’s a warm beverage that you need time to relax and drink. We don’t have time, so you just gulp down anything you can while they are in the cab or taxi or Metro,” Grandl said.

“Red Bull is running through these veins.,” said Tyler Joe, photographer at Elle, rotating his forearms upward. His pal, fellow fotog Dee Vira, nodded in agreement and puffed the gold filter of her bubble-gum pink cigarette.

In an instant, photographers will break into a sprint to catch a shot of say, Anna Della Russo in a neon pink and ruffled Rosie Assoulin number or Natalie Joos in a blue and white striped jumpsuit with Willy Wonka-inspired detailing. Joe says he follows a fitness regimen to acclimate his body for Fashion Month.

“Just make sure your body is physically ‘right.’ I try to run as much as possible and make sure my body is ready to handle the day,” Joe said. His photographs, which can be found on his personal portfolio titled Not Your Average Joe, are also converted to GIF-like moving content.

There are talks that photographers have shed their artistic demeanor and put on the paparazzi hat, while street style stars no longer dress for themselves, but for the camera. Amy O’Dell, Cosmopolitan.com editor and author of recently released Tales from the Back Row, wrote an essay titled “Is Getting Street Style Photographed Considered Fashion Week ‘Basic’?” and published it on Man Repeller. The site’s founder, Leandra Medine, is widely considered one of the O.G.’s of street style.

With their exercise plans and live wire mentality, are street-style photographers now far removed from the original creators of the craft? Take Tommy Ton, who’s now moved on from Style.com to launch a more artful TommyTon.com, or The New York Times’ Bill Cunningham, who, by the way, was spotted shooting outside the Tory Burch show at Lincoln Center, propped on a trusty wooden cane.

Grace Coddington and a colleague arrive at Vera Wang and breeze past the army of photographers. Charlotte Groeneveld, founder of The Fashion Guitar, looms in the background, waiting for her closeup.

Grace Coddington and a colleague arrive at Vera Wang and breeze past the army of photographers. Charlotte Groeneveld, founder of The Fashion Guitar, looms in the background, waiting for her closeup.

On the opposing side, are photographers simply following their stylish subjects’ lead? There are two clear types of people who show up to New York Fashion Week—those who want their photo taken and those who don’t. Charlotte Groenevald, founder of The Fashion Guitar blog, strutted to and fro in front of catcalling photographers as Grace Coddington brushed past en route to Vera Wang’s show. Not a single photographer cared to snap a photo of American Vogue’s longtime creative director.

For Grandl, Joe and others, style is supreme over celebrity.

“It’s not necessarily people that I look for. There are people I always see that I like shooting,” Joe said. “Sometimes I don’t like their outfits and sometimes I do. It just depends on the day.”

Some Fashion Week photographers only shoot street style a few days a year, so they maintain their artistic judgment, like freelancer Asia Typek.

“I prefer shooting non-celebrities. Celebrities are good, but I like to take photos with people that I like. If they look good and it’s very interesting, then I take it,” Typek said.

It’s an evolving, exhausting industry. Get the shot at all costs—that’s the photographer’s mantra. If that means dead sprinting into oncoming traffic, all to shoot that teeny top-handle bag shaped like Oscar the Grouch, that’s a risk they are willing to take.

Sarah Bracy Penn is a graduate student in journalism at New York University. Follow her on Twitter (@sarahbracypenn) and view her portfolio on sarahbracypenn.com.

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