Phil Oh, better known as Streetpeeper, travels the world as a street style photographer, shooting for his own website and for Vogue.com. Yet, he is remarkably casual and good humored about both fashion and photography, comfortably self-identifying with the creative spirit that can turn an adventurous misfit into a style star. We asked him about identifying an ideal look and how he manages to work so quickly while somehow capturing the perfect fashion image.
Did you start out interested in fashion or photography? What lead you to the whole street style game?
I mostly started doing this as a hobby, or as an excuse to justify traveling to Tokyo and Europe. I majored in history at NYU, and I basically knew nothing about both fashion and photography when I started my blog back in 2006.
Do you have a favorite city to shoot in?
Things have changed there recently with high-profile flagship openings of stores like Zara, H&M, Topshop, Forever 21, etc., but Tokyo is still #1 for street-style, especially the menswear. Paris is my favorite for the fashion weeks, since everyone saves their best outfits for this week. I also really like Sydney, Melbourne, London, and Copenhagen. Bangkok was surprisingly cool, too!
Do you feel pressure to post really frequently?
During fashion weeks, of course I feel pressure to submit daily photos for Vogue.com. It's 30 straight days, twice a year, and gets totally overwhelming, which is part of the reason why I've sort of slacked a bit the rest of the year for my blog.
I'm assuming you have people who shoot under you. How do you make sure the photos (and taste) stay consistent?
I used to, but I've stopped taking submissions from other cities. When I did take contributors, it was very difficult maintaining a certain standard. Also the beauty and curse of publishing online is that if someone is good enough to take nice photos, what do they need me for? They can start their own blog!
Street style photography has become such a 'thing', with people dressing up just to be photographed. Do you think this is a good development?
No, but anything that gets people excited about style and looks they would normally be too shy to wear, can't be such a bad thing? I get it, that the 'circus' and the 'peacocking' is a bit eye-rolls, but if a woman can't wear a crazy Proenza or Dolce look to a fashion event and not be pooh-pooh'ed, where else can she wear it? Yeah, part of it is internet-fame-seeking and vanity, but most of these kids do genuinely love fashion and love wearing it, which some people seem to forget.
What defines a good look for you? What gets you excited?
I don't know actually. It's all subjective, but I love color and texture, and layering and clashing. It's so hard to do right, which is part of the reason I think people who wear all black are usually so safe and boring. Anyone with a high enough credit limit can go out and buy a current season full Prada look, but what interests me is people who can put together items that look really disparate on a clothing rack, but which look just so right when they put them on together. I absolutely love it when I see someone who can put together an unusual outfit that works.
What's your M.O. for identifying looks? Do you just have an encyclopedic fashion memory?
Oh no, definitely not. I don't really have that kind of knowledge. I can recognize some of the more recognizable pieces or prints/patterns, but I'm far from encyclopedic when it comes to fashion.
A lot of the times you're shooting super quickly but the photos still look really good. How do you make sure the photos you're taking look appealing?
Take a LOT of photos?