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Scott Schuman photographs Much Music personality Sarah Taylor in Toronto on Thursday. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Scott Schuman photographs Much Music personality Sarah Taylor in Toronto on Thursday. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Q&A

Sex and the Sartorialist Add to ...

Scott Schuman wants everyone to know he's good in bed.

Of course, the critical eye behind high-profile blog The Sartorialist is good at taking pictures, too. The fashion-marketing-guy-turned-shutterbug is a style blogging pioneer, influencing and defining fashion around the world through the hundreds of photos displayed on his site, which boasts more than 100,000 hits a day.

Named one of Time magazine's top 100 design influencers in 2007, Schuman was feted at a party Wednesday at Toronto's high-style retailer Holt Renfrew, whose Bloor Street windows are currently devoted to Schuman and five other fashion bloggers, including his Parisian girlfriend, Garance Doré.

Between an in-store appearance earlier on Wednesday and a commercial gig for Burberry on Thursday, the Indiana-born 41-year-old showed off his new book (titled The Sartorialist, it's out Aug. 22) and talked frankly about his prowess, photographic and otherwise.

You've become a worldwide brand simply by taking people's pictures. When I had my showroom in New York, that's what I was telling guys like Peter Som and James Coviello: "You have to build your brand" - and they didn't listen. I started The Sartorialist in 2005. By late 2006, I had a serious brand. A brand that meant something.

Was there a turning point in terms of the blog's popularity? There was not a specific date, but all these really heartfelt e-mails I started receiving from people saying that the blog made them appreciate and be inspired by other people - not Prada or labels but people - that's when I thought, okay, now I'm onto something. You can't buy that. You can't tell someone [to do that] It just has to happen.

Originally, you wrote a lot more; now there's very little text. Is it true then that a picture tells 1,000 words? Yeah, that's it, but I'm also just too busy. To me, a photograph tells what I want to say; I shoot it the way I want to shoot it with the light how I want and the angle and the background. The most difficult part right now is that I would love to write more.

Do you ever think about doing a fashion detox? Why would I detox? I mean, look at this stuff; it's great. Did you see what was happening today? Two hundred people came out. Two girls came to the [Holts Café]to have a drink afterward and told me they took an hour and a half bus from wherever to meet me. How could I not talk to them? When I'm shooting in the coldest cold or the hottest hot, I'm not [thinking]about whether you're going to be sitting here interviewing me. It's that girl who's taking the bus; those are the people I want to make happy.

By snapping fashion bigwigs one day and unknown gamines the next, your message about style is very democratic. Yeah. I mean, take the whole thing with Holts. They said, "We're going to have interviews with all these people." And I was like, I don't care; I want to have X amount of time with my people. I don't need another interview with any other magazine or newspaper in the world. What I need is to meet my readers and thank them. I think they really got that sincerity. I will do whatever it takes because my audience gives me so much love and so much energy to take these photos.

People describe you as a fashion legend. Yeah. I'm gonna keep doing it. I love it and I'm going to wear that responsibility. I work my ass off. I was up last night and I shot all day for these commercial projects. The money I make from Burberry, Adidas and Style.com will make it possible for me to go to fashion weeks in Milan, Paris, London, New York, Stockholm, Australia - but also to places like Peru, Laos, Tibet. I want to mix in national indigenous style. I want to be able to look back at my pictures and say this was a snapshot, not a report, of my vision when I visited.

Who are your photographic influences? [Photojournalist]Steve McCurry is as much an influence to me as [fashion photographer]Bruce Weber.

What did you want to be as a kid? A football player or a baseball player.

Not any more? Well, I mean, look at me.

You look fit - just not big like a quarterback. I'm pretty good at the sex. And pretty good at picture taking. That's about it. Garance is pretty happy. And the hotel-room neighbours are pretty pissed. You can write that; that's totally fine with me.

You want people to know you're good in bed? Yeah. Yeah.

Okaaay. Do you shine your own shoes? Uh, you know, I would, but there's actually a place close to me - Cesar's Shoe Repair - and the guy has stepped up his game since I mentioned him on my site. If he was a five before, he's now a seven or eight.

What camera do you use? I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It shoots high-definition video even though I haven't figured out how to do that. But I'm still really good in bed.

Does the site make money? Yes, through advertising. I don't make a lot of money from it, but I do make enough to buy very good suits.

What are you wearing now? Ralph Lauren Black Label.

What's your weakness when it comes to shooting people? I have a weakness for surprises. I want to see something I haven't seen. I'm totally ambiguous sexually when it comes to my work. I shoot what I'm attracted to.

What matters more: hair or shoes? Doesn't matter. I'm totally just reacting to the moment in time and trying to capture it for the blog. I'll figure [the rest]out later. I'll look at a picture and go, oh, it was the hair or the light in the person's eyes, the posture or the shoes. That's different than the commercial stuff where I have to make a plan and recapture an idea of what that would be.

Can you tell when people are trying too hard? Uh, yeah.

Do people recognize you now? Even though it's my site, I don't show up on it that much. But yeah, people recognize me. All the time.

There's one shot of you in your book. Yeah. I think from when I was really skinny.

You're still really skinny. Tell me more about how skinny I am. Do you think I look better with short hair or long? You can tell me about my butt. What do you think? It's nice, right?

If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing? Every rapper says if I was not doing this, I would be in jail. And basically, I'm a rapper, only I'm a photographer. So if I wasn't doing this, I would definitely be in jail.

Actually, I think you're quite mischievous. I think I am. And I'm totally cool with that.

An exhibition of Sartorialist photographs continues until July 29 at Holt Renfrew's Bloor Street store in Toronto.

 

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