The Air is Better with Dance in it: A Conversation and Photo Feature with Shelley Neuman
Photographer: Shelley Neuman of ATX Street Style
Models: Susan Harkey, Maya Kaough, and Tolly Moseley of Rapt Aerial Dance
Wardrobe: Being Apparel
Makeup: Jackson Montgomery Schwartz
Issue Six: The Kinetic Issue, A Conversation with Shelley Neuman of ATX Streetstyle
When did you start photographing street style?
I started doing street style photography at the end of 2011, two years after I graduated from photojournalism school at the University of Texas. It began as something to keep myself busy because I wasn't doing much shooting after I graduated. Then it turned into something I couldn't live without.
Documenting style is fascinating to me! I love capturing the way people express themselves through the clothing they choose to wear and I feed off of the inspiration it gives me for my own personal style. The amazing photojournalism school at UT taught me most of what I know about photography and not being afraid to approach anyone, but I have since learned so much through trial and error. The beautiful thing about photography is figuring out your own eye for things and learning how to show other people to see the world the way you see it.
Are you the only person behind the scenes of ATX Street Style? Do you ever feature Contributors?
For the most part, yes, it is just me. It's my baby, so I usually only ask for help from others if I can't attend an event I really want to capture photos from, or if something is too massive for me to cover on my own, but those occasions are very rare and I always credit anyone who shoots for me on my blog. I've been getting more into travel photography and usually my boyfriend contributes photos to those posts since he's my biggest travel companion. I've been thinking about seeking out student photographers to help me capture campus street style, but haven't done it yet. We'll see!
What do you think makes Austin style stand apart? What draws you towards photographing street style in ATX?
Austin style is just so laid back. People here never seem like they try too hard to impress and labels aren't as important. I love how people here tend to mix casual pieces with dressier things, or mix and match modern items with vintage stuff to pull off looks that are totally unique. People are almost always very approachable and flattered here when I ask to take their picture, and that's not always the case in other places I've visited.
What are some ways you've noticed ATX street style change since you launched in 2011?
This is a little hard for me to pinpoint but I would say that there is less of a need to boldly accessorize. Thinking about people I have photographed over the years as well as my own style tendencies; I personally used to be a little obsessed with wearing lots of jewelry and other baubles and I've noticed that trend in Austin in general. People are getting back to the basics, pairing down their looks and choosing maybe one big statement piece or print to wear instead of trying to tie together several into the same outfit. Austin style has gotten a little more simplistic while still carrying on that casual cool vibe.
What events or festivals have been your favorite to photograph so far?
Austin Psych Fest and Fun Fun Fun Fest are definitely my faves. Psych Fest because everyone seemingly transports themselves back to the '60s/'70s for a weekend with their style, and FFF Fest because there were so many different types of music lovers/style mavens in one place. I'm sad FFF Fest is no more but I'm looking forward to shooting Sound on Sound Festival this year!
Are events and festivals where you find most of your subjects?
Most of my photos do come from festivals, but in between festival periods, I usually track down events that I know stylish folks will be at. I know lots of people in town who own vintage boutiques, and I never miss any of their shindigs because I always come across the most interesting people at them!
Your imagery is so genuine, it give viewers a glimpse into the culture and environment of the subject, making it much more accessible than say, fashion week street style. What is your angle on street style coverage? What do you think street style offers that high fashion or fast fashion does not?
Wow, thank you! I've never shot any fashion week street style but I've seen videos of street style photographers outside of shows and it always seems like a bit of a madhouse to me with everyone getting the same photos of the same people. I like shooting in more one-off environments because, like you said, it feels more genuine to me that way. At fashion week events, all of those street style starlets are dressing up for the photographers, whereas on the streets or at festivals in Austin, people are just dressing for their day-to-day lives, or with the intention of maybe snapping a few selfies with friends. I just want to capture people in their element and document everyday style as it happens.
Any news or upcoming projects you'd like to share with our readers?
My next step is still something I'm trying to figure out! I have some ideas brewing, like possibly a book about Austin style, but that is still very much in it's lofty dreams stage. I'm working on more editorial stuff for my blog and elsewhere - so please contact me if you're another creative who wants to collaborate!
Thank you, Shelley!
All images © Shelley Neuman of ATX Streetstyle 2016