This Week’s Read: the Sartorialist

At any point in childhood, did your parents decide to put a kabosh on the picture books? Mine did.

At one point, I checked out a book from the children’s section of my small town’s  library. It had a red cover, was about 1/2 inch thick and the inside did have words but also lots of tiny, stamper size color illustrations. Sailboats, blond boys in nautical clothing…something about tiny bears that won’t kill and eat you.

In a reading session with my father,  I opened the book, declared it a cookbook and declared every recipe one for cake. I then informed my father that my future husband’s favorite food would be cake. But not my first husband. He wouldn’t like anything. (He didn’t, really.)

My partner’s favorite food is indeed cake.

My mother, overhearing this, decided that it was time to put the kabosh on heavy picture books. It had to be a few years later that I discovered the Alfred Hitchcock endorsed  Jupiter Jones series. In college I met a kid that resembled this Jupiter.

He was a total douche.

So as an adult, even now, I experience I weird sense of guilt when flipping through image heavy books. It may even explain why I started to avoid reading fiction despite the enormous relief it gives me when I do.

Of course, fashion is all about image – and since I dipped my toe into fashion blogging, even niche fashion blogging, understanding image has become a compelling force in my life. So when a fashion blogger releases a picture book… I want it. It took a few years, but my sweetie finally gifted me this at our Solstice/Festivus celebration (we do not air grievances.):

The Sartorialist book, a collection of photos from the popular blog by Scott Schuman, is probably one of the most gratifying visual feasts I have partaken of since childhood. Certainly I enjoy roaming Flickr, but few things can still beat the experience of an image printed on paper that invites the thumb to page then pause, page then pause, page then think.

This street style blog certainly has its share of harem pants and Japanese cartoon references – but it also has almost more men then women, a few people that are not “model pretty” as one hilarious send-up flow chart accuses, and here and there shot statements as the photographer reveals sometimes startling, fascinating, hilarious things about some of the men and women he shoots. The book is not a lesson in defining beauty, not really. It’s a lesson in curiosity. More than one image defies assumption, from the homeless-looking man to the plus-size woman who redefines flamboyance. While this photographer focuses on technique and personality, what good style means and why it isn’t any one aesthetic, it’s also about looking at what the photographed tells us of the photographer. He is showing us what he sees in the people he photographs. If you look closely at these people, you can also see in them how he sees the world – by revealing the people, the photographer also reveals himself.

It isn’t a recipe for cake, or course, but it’s a damn good visual feast.