Here is the fruit of a week's worth of work with a new workflow, equipment, and applied aesthetic methodology. In which I bring the studio to the street, in which I can use a flash and have the rich blue sky made possible by f22 yet have the power to punch through that so as to make people pop off the page. I've developed a hyperreal aesthetic that matches the Hyperreality of Korea that undergirds the street fashion culture here, which is actually the World Capital of Hypermodernity. South Korea is the true fulfillment of Guy Dubord's prophecy of a "Society of the Spectacle," where the referers (signs and symbols and meanings) have come completely unmoored from their original referents, where the simulacrum is reality, the copy is the original, the Virtual has become Real. And no where is this more clear than in Korean street fashioncultures, where signs, symbols, and meanings have melded together into an impenetrable sea of relative meaninglessness. But it's fascinating and fun to watch all of Korea's cultural hybridity and textual impurity combine with the postcolonial tendency to embrace wild new mixes of meaning to create entirely new, Koreanized things. So now, I've realized just how important Korean street fashion is -- well, I have since 2006, actually. And it's not about the mere pieces of cloth that hang from Korean bodies. It's what the clothing signifies as complex and layered cultural texts. I've decided to simply take all this seriously by upping my game fro that of street snaps to creating a runway of the street in front of my camera. This shall be the official record of Korean street fashion culture. Especially now that Seoul Fashion Week has unwittingly become Seoul Street Fashion Week.
Our Seoul Street Fashion Lookbook
This is SSFW's Spring 2017 Street Fashion Lookbook, in which we don't just take pictures of clothing, but read the culture that informs its creation. Our methodology is that of bringing the studio aesthetic to the street, and trying to link items of clothing as cultural texts to the cultural geography that surrounds and creates it.
A New Rationale, Workflow, and Methodology
I've been covering Seoul Fashion Week runway for ten years straight. That's 20 seasons and a lot of boring, mechanical shooting. While it's seemingly glamorous and cool, it's mind-numbingly boring and repetitive. Photographically speaking, it's where creativity goes to die.
The problem lies in never having the room to be creative as a runway photographer. Nowadays, you are supposed to shoot center runway, or you're a loser. Period. Not much room for interesting angles, creative compositions, etc. Even shooting the model in a slightly different composition so as to allow for the inclusion of large additional elements is dangerous, often a no no.
Although I did manage some interesting things back when I didn't know how to shoot runway "properly."
And sometimes, I would choose to shoot "improperly" to break the monotony.
Occasionally, the runway can be a place for true entertainment and levity, but those occasions are rare, like when a designer decided to take his bow on a Hoverboard™ and then proceeded to fall flat on his face. It was an awesome moment, but there are many, many more moments filled with carpal tunnel-inducing robotic camera operations.
Yawn. Somebody wake me up when the show's over.
This season is the first in which I decided to forego runway shooting altogether. The real action -- as I've been saying since 2006 -- is on the street. And I started shooting street at Seoul Fashion Week in 2007, back when SFW organizers were baffled why I was taking pictures of people in the lines to shows.
Since then, my street fashion portraiture game has improved a thousand-fold. I've always preferred fill flash when taking portraits on the streets and eventually became quite good at it. And indeed, the best kind of fill flash is the kind you don't know is there.
Sometimes it's so subtle and slight a difference, no one appreciates you're even using it in portraits. Indeed, it often takes a deft touch and a twitchy finger on the aperture dial.
But I eventually started preferring more obvious, copius splashes of flash, especially that offered by off-camera strobes on remotes.
And I soon opted for more non-subtle uses of flash...
And this was the season, this year of 2017, that I decided three things:
1. Street is now more important than runway, not only in SFW, but in the fashion weeks across the world.
2. Since SFW is even less established than other fashion weeks worldwide, but subject to the same shifts in emphasis from runway to street, slow to fast fashion, haute couture to pret-a-porter, this is why the balance of power has shifted even more severely in Seoul's case. The New york Times and Vogue have covered SFW in recent years, but with nary a shot of a runway. It's all been the street fashion scene that attracts the world's eye.
3. It was time to take the street fashion scene here seriously, and not just treat it as "snaps" or an easy afterthought to the main runway events, treating the street like a runway unto itself. So I got a crew of students to help with major coverage and decided to create a runway-style workflow around street. So I procured me one these:
And now, I have all the power I need (since you actually need MORE flash power the brighter the scene gets). So, BOOM.
So, I can do this -- with dramatic blue skies backgrounding cotton candy, white clouds -- with a powerful strobe, but not something small, like a normal flash unit.
The Spring 2017 Seoul Street Fashion Week Team, without whom I could not have gotten so many pictures done:
KyeongEun Christina Do
Cyan Ieng Wai U
And finally, me, Michael Hurt. For more pictures, you can keep up with this articles page and/or follow me at Instagram @kuraeji.