The street style trend is something I always tend to think about in quotation marks. I just don’t, you know, “get” it. The very idea that some random body in an expensive number walking down the street should be regarded as some sort of influencer is a little too Warholian-utilitarian for me. At the same, I’m also a little bit like “take my picture, Tommy Ton; I’m ready for you.” It’s difficult to decide what (or who) should qualify what. I knew coming into this—at the end of this season’s men’s shows—that I wanted to do a men-in-real-life piece, but I didn’t know how to approach it. I also didn’t know what men in real life were wearing.
This very millennial quandary (“millenial” in quotes, too) led me to my friend and photographer Melodie Jeng. Jeng, whose photographs have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Elle and Details, just got back from a three city European tour to catch the tail end of the male extravaganza.
Joshua Glass: You’re a trained studio photographer – how did you get involved in street style?
Melodie Jeng: It started as a personal passion that just became what I do every day. When I first moved here, I was 18, and I just went outside the tents because I was really nervous and, to be honest, I just really wanted to get a picture of girls like Freya and Karlie Kloss. Then I would go home and post them on Facebook. I guess I just gained some steam after that, but all I really was interested in was taking a nice photo, you know, making them look good. Now I’m still secretly a fan of the models and designers, but being right there next to them normalizes them.
Joshua: Objectively, it seems kind of easy, no? Just snapping a photo of someone dressed well on the corner. What area some of the challenges we might not realize?
Melodie: Street style requires a… different mindset. When I was in Paris, I made friends with a bunch of the bloggers. I got the impression from them that maybe they’ll end up turning something like this into a job, but that it didn’t matter. It seemed like they were taking photos just for the passion. They didn’t have fancy cameras, and were more focused on just snapping a photo, than the technical. It’s very instinctual. Things happen fast so you have to be ready to run, and at the same time, sometimes there are days that you just spend all day waiting.
Joshua: In New York you mostly take photos around the city. How was it going to a very fashion-centralized place to take photos?
Melodie: When you go to all the fashion weeks you do end up with a lot of content, but, I did miss more of that ‘every day’ sense. If it’s too much fashion week stuff, then it’s not really real. It feels like you’re clinging onto some sense of surrealism that isn’t really there. It is where the trends start though, but I guess that’s the idea of the ‘new’ street style, where it’s decided from the top but based from the ‘bottom’ which is actually just the path right next to the runway. I prefer to shoot people that aren’t just there to be photographed. Sometimes I obviously have to shoot the top editors, but I like people that aren’t peacocking too much.
Joshua: Do you think that ruins it?
Melodie: It’s just becomes this new genre of faux realism. It’s hard to say, because I know it’s not really real. It’s just become the norm. I’ve been trying to think of myself of more of a documentary photographer, because I’m documenting how different societies dress and move. When I’m doing fashion week stuff I try to take into account all the other parts of the spectical – sometimes critical things like all the photographers behind a street style star. I try not to get too involved into the hype.
Joshua: What are some of the trends you saw in the streets?
Melodie: Definitely a lot of statement scarves. It was obviously very cold, but European men aren’t afraid to be bold with their neckwear. It’s funny because I guess it started as a women’s trend, but I saw a lot of men wearing their jackets caped over their shoulders. Also a lot of snap backs – especially in Paris where the crowd was younger.
All photographs by Melodie Jeng