Random Questions For...Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist

Random Questions For...Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist
by and originally posted at The Fashion Informer

Really, what’s not to love about The Sartorialist? The supremely popular two-year-old fashion blog features killer photos of cool, uber-stylish people from around the globe and is helmed by the cool, uber-stylish Scott Schuman, a former fashion showroom owner/marketing guru-turned photographer. But one of the things we love most about the site are the reader comments, which skew toward the thoughtful and insightful, rather than the mean-spirited chatter one finds on so many other blogs, fashion or otherwise. No wonder The Sartorialist currently boasts upwards of 23,000 hits a day.

The Fashion Informer caught up with the 39-year-old father of two - who now has a monthly column in GQ and also shoots for style.com and men.style.com during New York, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks - on a recent Friday morning as he strolled Fifth Avenue looking for his next photo op, which came mid-conversation (“Can I call you back in five minutes? I have to shoot this woman in front of Bergdorfs. She’s really cool.”)

Who are we to stand in the way of creative genius? As promised, Schuman called back several minutes later to finish our chat (the photo he took is posted below). So, Scott...

What’s your favorite time of day?
I’m a morning person. I get up around 6 , about an hour before my kids, go get my coffee from Starbucks and my newspaper and listen to a little ESPN Sports Radio while I get ready to do my blog.

Do you remember the first great photo you took?
I got a little point and shoot Olympus camera - film, not digital - when I had my first kid [who is now 8] and the first shots I took where I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty fun!’ were with that point and shoot. It had a big lens and I had read this book by Arthur Elgort about how to shoot your kids - he kept saying ‘Don’t be afraid to get close. Get as close as you can in some pictures’ - and I learned more about the way I shoot now from reading Arthur Elgort on how to shoot your kids then any other text (though I learned a lot from looking at Bruce Weber’s shots, too; I love how he captures people’s essence). But when I would get very close with this little Olympus camera, the background would be blurred out and the kid would be in focus - it was beautiful - and that was the first time I thought, ‘Wow, that looks like photos I look at in books.’ I didn’t know about depth of field at that time, but I knew I was getting closer to what I wanted to achieve, and that got me into it even more. And I keep trying to get a little bit better and learn something new. As good as it’s gotten so far, I still feel like I’m at 70 percent of my ability. When I learn, in post-production, how to turn photos to black and white, that will add a whole new element. But I’m still not at the level I want.

What the last book you read?
“Perfume” by Patrick Suskind. It was good timing because I was in Paris and it’s set there, and I was buying a lot of colognes and learning about that on the side, so the timing was perfect. My wife had read it and told me it was good. But I don’t like it as much as I like “The Alienist,” which is a book I could probably read every summer.

What’s in current rotation on your iPod?
“The Barber of Seville” soundtrack and that BeyoncĂ© song “Crazy in Love.” It’s fun to plug my iPod in and listen to that song and watch Fred Astaire dance on TV. And I’ve been listening to Bow Wow Wow. There’s a beat and an edgy sexiness to her [Annabelle Lwin] that I like. I remember when the video first came out when I was a kid, thinking, ‘Wow. She doesn’t look like any girls in Indiana.’

What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Just a coffee. Usually I have one of those little biscotti things at Starbucks but they didn’t have them today. And it’s my younger daughter’s fifth birthday today so I bought her a chocolate croissant and I had to be very strong not to eat that chocolate croissant on the way home. But it made it all the way there.

Favorite item of clothing or jewelry?

The only jewelry I wear is my wedding ring. But the thing that’s made a big difference in my life recently are my new reading glasses. I bought them last summer before a trip to Milan but didn’t bring them with me, and I had such a hard time by the time I got home from shooting all day and then I had to work on the computer - I thought I was going to die. So I love my reading glasses; they’ve made a huge difference. And I really love clothing, but there’s nothing I’m really obsessive about.

How often do you get turned down when asking to shoot someone on the street?
Older, elegant woman like the one I just shot are the group that turn me down more than anyone. And the other group that turns me down a lot are bigger women. Because I think they think I might post their photo and say something mean about them.

Do you have any tricks to get people to relax when shooting them?

I just try and shoot quickly. Because if I can shoot them quickly, you see they’re smiling and relaxed because they’re still in that first flush of feeling flattered - ‘Oh, somebody stopped me and wants to take my picture because they like my outfit!’ So I just try and have the camera all set up before I stop them - and I try and stop them where I want to take their picture so then I can shoot immediately.

Favorite off-duty activity?
Hanging out with my kids.

Beverage of choice?
Frozen strawberry margaritas.

What’s your favorite website?

I check CNN.com for the news, but just because it’s easy. And I like ESPN but I probably listen to ESPN Radio more than I look at any websites. When I started The Sartorialst, I wanted to kind of have it like ESPN Radio in the sense that people could make comments. They didn’t necessarily have to agree with me, I just wanted them to make a good point. It’s bit different because they’re about sports and athletes and stars, so they can be a little tougher, and I’m posting shots of people who didn’t ask to have their picture taken, so I’m a bit more protective. But I like that interaction. Another website I like is the Bruce Weber site, just because I like his work and I like to see when he’s got new editorials coming up.

Who’s your style icon?

In an abstract way, I like Italian fabric salesman - the guys who work for these big fabric mills. Because they are the guys I’d see in New York and I’d like the way their pants and jackets were cut. I really love that whole style and that’s what kind of got me into that whole scene - the pants are shorter and slimmer, the jackets are tighter. To me, an Italian fabric salesman is just degrees different from what Thom Browne does. That’s why I think those guys look really hip because everything fits so beautifully and it’s done in a much more interesting color and pattern spectrum than someone like Thom, who is more monochromatic. So that’s a tiny bit of my style inspiration, but then I also love old Jil Sander or Dries Van Noten thrown in.

Who have you not shot that you’d love to shoot?

I love Dries Van Noten - his work and as a person - and I’ve shot him, but I’d love to do an interview with him. Same thing with Armani. I’d love to sit down and ask him some questions. And I wish I had the chance to shoot Fred Astaire. I’ve been thinking about him a lot because he moves so well in his clothes and his suits. And he was really funky, dancing with this great suit jacket on with his pants rolled at the cuff like you would a pair of cotton pants. You never see guys rolling the cuff of their suit pants any more. We think of him as so elegant but he was also a little funkier and edgier than I think most people remember.

What are your plans for this weekend and the following weekend?

Don’t tell my daughter, but we are taking her to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos for her birthday. It has all these water attraction things. So that’ll be really fun. I love doing that because I was a stay-at-home dad for two years, and I really miss that time of hanging out and playing with the kids and not really having to think about anything else. And then next weekend, I’m going to Europe to shoot Pitti Uomo for men.style.com.

What never fails to make you cry?

Lately, it has been on the way home after a long three week trip, when I’m kind of relaxing on the airplane and thinking, ‘Thank God, that’s done’ and going home to the kids. I have a little wine on the flight back, and I’ll watch some goofy movie - like “The Break-Up” with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn - and it’s a little bit emotional and I start crying. And I’m like, I never cry at movies, why the hell am I crying at this movie?! I told my wife and she’s like, ‘You’re just exhausted. That happens to me all the time.’ So I thought that was really funny.

When are you happiest?

Sunday morning when the kids come and jump into our bed, and we don’t have to be anywhere right away and we can just hang out and talk before we have to go out and do the million things we have to do every weekend.
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