Being a street style photographer ain’t easy, but it sure comes with a pack of interesting stories from the fashion industry.
Some people might think it’s only the fashion editors or buyers that have a chaotic seven days of non-stop work during New York Fashion Week, but some of the hardest working, behind the scenes members are the street style photographers who lurk in the cold weather to get that perfect, glossy shot. Meet Keith Morrison, one of our favourite street style snappers who has taken to shoot backstage more than on the street this season, and has a few fun stories to share.
How did you get started in photography?
I got started in photography through skateboarding. Originally I had wanted to be a cinematographer but after picking up my first camera at about age 14 I realised how difficult the process was…sure I had the camera but what to do after I had stopped recording? I had no idea. I was always much more of a visual person so for me it seemed like the next logical, and attainable, thing.
Who are you shooting for this season?
This season I’m shooting for GQ(Men), WSJ Mag(Men and Women), Barneys New York(Women), and Deborah Lippmann(Women).
Tell us some of your favourite models to shoot?
This is a bit of a tricky question for me because, admittedly, I try to not immerse myself in the industry too much. I care about fashion but only to an extent as I feel it’d change the way I want to photograph. Additionally there is SUCH high turnover that some of your favourite faces from last week are no longer around now; not to mention the models from last season. But, if I had to name names, I’d say I’m a huge fan of Larissa Hoffmann, Kate Underwood, Maggie Maurer, Imaan Hammam, Annely Bouma, and Heather Kemesky.
What do you shoot with?
That’s a funny one because on any given day I will have 3-4 cameras around my neck as I try to mix business and pleasure. I love capturing what a brand wants which usually lends itself to be of the digital variety; for that stuff I’ll be on a Canon 5DMark III and a handful of lenses (85mm, 70-200mm, 24-70mm) but recently fell in love with the 50mm for, well, everything. For myself personally to be satisfied I usually tote around a film camera or two. My favourites are the Mamiya 7, the RZ67, and a small Ricoh GR1 point and shoot.
What is the story behind your first camera?
My first camera was a Nikon N65 that I bought from Ritz camera for myself with all of my birthday money; it by no means had all the bells and whistles that I “wanted” then but it did the job. I remember I had been wanting the upgraded N80 which just looked cooler because it was all black versus the silver and black version I had bought but I simply couldn’t pull together the cash. It was a great camera that took a beating from me…I toted it around on skateboard missions and shortly thereafter to concerts.
‘I used to lie my way to get all access passes to shows with some of my favourite bands’
I feel old in saying this but it was still in the earlier days of the social media world and who knows how or why these people responsible for managing media outlets let a kid from a company called “Funky Promotions” have free reign of the place but who am I to judge? To whoever you were back then…thanks!
What shows are the best to shoot outside of during NYFW?
It’s so hard to say because it all depends on the brand you’re working for. I try to step back and assess what shows are going to draw the crowd that I need because that’s going to determine EVERYTHING. It’d be easy to also say to just go to all of the big shows but sometimes it’s the smaller shows that draw the most eclectic crowd. I will say that I always love DKNY because of her location and the time of day it’s usually at. On top of that I’ve also had really great experiences outside Tommy;
‘it’s always a bit too chaotic and you can never really get the shot you want but I love having to work for it a bit more…’
takes me back to the days of shooting for newspapers where I was told there’s always an opportunity to make the picture you just have to keep your eyes open and finger on the trigger.
What stands out to you in terms of someone’s personal style?
To be it’s about comfort, fit, and colour; I don’t sit there and judge people’s styles from a personal standpoint but rather take the route of thinking, “do they look confident?” And there is a fine line between confidence and cocky…when it nudges in the other direction I usually won’t even bother picking up my camera.
Out of all the photos you take, how do you decide which ones to post on Instagram?
Instagram, like all social levers, has been such a learning experience. I used to sit there and simply post the images that I knew would satisfy my audience but that often left me less than enthralled with my feed. Over time, once clients remained constant, I pulled back and reassessed a bit. In the end I’ve decided to post what I want to be hired for regardless of the results it will garner. Sure I’ll be losing followers, maybe even more than I’ll gain, but I’m putting out the work that I would want to be creating for myself not the content someone else is paying me to create for them.
What are your thoughts on social media in this digital age where anyone can be a photographer?
It’s a double-edged sword for certain. I think it’s INCREDIBLY important to document your lives to have something tangible to hold on to. When I was a kid I used to see photo album after photo album my father was responsible for creating; there were so many insignificant moments that gained purpose when he had decided to stop time. For me, I guess by proximity, decided that I didn’t want old and not have anything to tell my life story when I’m gone. So it’s a bit self-indulgent but it means a lot to have this visual diary with me wherever I go. On the other hand, it’s also a negative from a multitude of standpoints. First and foremost it places so much unnecessary pressure on us all to document EVERYTHING thus taking us away from reality. We, as a society, are so incredibly detached from our existence at times that it’s unsettling. Secondly it gives us a grading system for our lives as decided upon by our peers. When I started gaining a bit of traction I found myself deleting images are it only received 50 likes in the first hour. If it had just ended there then it’d be fine but it would often change my perception of the image…one that just 60 minutes ago made me happy but now I’m viewing it in a slightly more negative light. I know that may be a bit too deep for something like this but I think it’s incredibly important to be pleased with your life first and foremost before anyone has the opportunity to lend their two cents.
Tell us one funny story from a time shooting street style at NYFW?
It’s more of a life story since it seemingly happens so much but one of the first winters shooting I was running across the street to shoot a gang of models and made the shot. After walking away while reviewing the images I noticed it was a bit colder down south. I took off my gloves and reached back only to feel the seam of my pants had split practically clear in half. I had to run to the nearest store to grab a new pair otherwise I may have literally froze my cheeks off.
Which other photographers inspire you?
I didn’t start off as a fashion photographer so to me a lot of my inspiration, predominantly my composition and affinity for light, was derived from more fine art and portraiture photographers. People like Alec Soth, Stephen Shore, Todd Hido, Richard Renaldi, Mary Ellen Mark, William Eggleston, Avedon, and Joel Sternfeld. More recent examples would be Thomas Prior, Gus Powell, and Michael Friberg. Since I got into fashion I’ve fallen in love with the way that photographers such as Matteo Montanari, Craig McDean, Sebastian Kim, Annemarieke Van Drimmelen, Peter Hapak, and Lachlan Bailey.
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