Scott Schuman, the Sartorialist: Photographer and blogger of beauty everywhere

 

Never did I fathom this moment would arrive. Okay, perhaps I am being a tad melodramatic. But in all honesty, I never really expected an opportunity to shake hands with the one and only Scott Schuman.


More commonly known as the Sartorialist, this is the man who helped catapult street style blogging onto the radars of internationally renowned fashion houses, publications, and style enthusiasts everywhere. And on Monday, Dec. 10, he came to Massachusetts to speak to a nearly full house at Wellesley College’s Alumnae Hall Auditorium. Sponsored by the Treves Fund and organized by Wellesley’s Davis Museum Student Advisory Committee (yes, they have their own fine arts museum, too!), the event was in connection with the museum’s Generous Medium: Photography at Wellesley 1972-2012 exhibition, and included a book signing of his latest book, The Sartorialist: Closer.

After greeting an ecstatic audience, the Indiana native explained his agenda—to share how he creates content for the Sartorialist and to shed light on the point of view through which he takes his photos. For Schuman, blogging is a nearly everyday activity, with posts usually uploaded at least six days out of seven and photos taken pretty much every day. When he first spots a potential subject, he creates a character in his mind based on his observations of the person. Not a detail goes unnoticed— he takes into account everything from physical appearance to magnitude of presence. Through his photos, Schuman aims to recreate for his audience the feeling of his encounter with that individual.  

Though his photos tend to capture an element of chic, Schuman was quick to assert that he does not care to capture the glamour and the glitz often associated with the fashion industry. Nor does he even care to make a point of capturing people of different ages and ethnicities. What guides his lens and catches his eye is his appreciation for art, for craft and design. In this sense, Schuman’s blog is personal, “like a diary,” he said. For him, creating content is “like writing music” in its vulnerability and in the challenge of opening oneself up to the public. Yet despite the high traffic the Sartorialist experiences on a daily basis, Schuman is careful to not feel overwhelmed. As he put it, “feel the pressure, but don’t feel the pressure.” This mantra helps him to stay true to his vision for the blog and to the purpose of his craft.


First and foremost, the Sartorialist “is an artistic thing.” It is a method of opening up a dialogue on fashion and everyday street life and in a sense, on humanity. Schuman recalled the transformation that occurred after he began to shoot Anna dello Russo (previously of Vogue Italia, now of Vogue Nippon). The fashion world’s definition of beauty shifted to include non-classic beauties such as dello Russo, and in accordance, she “blossomed,” growing more confident both in herself and in her own personal style. Though international fame earned him an influx of potential deals, Schuman remains decisive in his choice of business partners. Though these side deals are necessary in earning revenue that helps keep the site clean and overhead low (so revenue isn’t solely reliant on advertising fees), Schuman has no qualms in turning down a deal that might negatively affect the site.    

Perhaps it is this clarity of vision that attracted me to the Sartorialist to begin with. I first started following the Sartorialist during my freshman year of college. Though I can’t recall just how I came across the page, I can recall how quickly it became a part of my online routine. I was amazed at the quality of his photos, from the lighting to the composition, to the warm feeling of admiration evoked by them. Though I’m no photographic expert, I knew right off the bat that something was so visually… sound about these photographs. Schuman shared that he didn’t really get into photography until after the birth of his two daughters—and with them, a real reason to pick up a camera. He hopes that he brings the same heart with which he shoots photographs of his children to every shoot and that his audience can feel the dedication.  

On the blog, Schuman communicates primarily through his photography, only writing when he feels the need to elaborate on the context of a photo or to provide food for thought. Though he described the Sartorialist as a way to communicate his appreciation for art and design, I also see it as something more. I see it as a celebration of people of different walks of life, of the humanity that ties us all together despite differences in culture and lifestyle. I see it as a way of broadening an audience’s definition of beauty to include people, places, and objects at times overlooked. I am more than thrilled that I got to meet the man in person, because what Scott Schuman does with his camera is truly special.