Wednesday, February 22, 2012

learning sf- the styley

Before moving to the Bay Area, I read up on great local blogs and tweeters. One that I started following early on was Kate Seward, aka The Styley. It took a few emails back and forth to meet up but once we finally got together at Momi’s Toby’s Revolution Cafe, I was so glad we had. Momi Toby’s was a darling cash-only coffee shop/bistro where I could easily spend hours working with a cappuccino or chatting with friends with a glass of wine. Even more fun was Kate who was such a blast to chat with that I frequently forgot to take notes. Luckily, plenty of our conversation was recorded. 

If after reading this, you can't wait to see more of Kate's work, you are in luck. Kate has two shows opening this week! #iSnapSF is a one-night show on Thursday night (tomorrow!) at the Haus of Hipstamatic and One or Two Things I Know About Her opens Saturday with a party and runs through April 7. 

How did The Styley get started?
When I started the blog I had no idea what it was going to be--I certainly had no idea it would become a street style blog. In fact, I started it because I was thinking about moving back to the East Coast. A girl I used to tutor wanted to meet for help writing a letter to a trend forecasting company in New York. I thought, I was in academia, I'm a writer--I could do trend forecasting. I wrote my own letter and managed to get the head of the company to do an informational interview with me. I said, "So, how do you get into trend forecasting?" "She said: The first option is to intern for $7/hr. The second is to start a really successful blog." So I started a blog.  

[The Styley]

Why the iphone?
One of the first cool street style photos I took was with my iPhone. I was on Fillmore Street, and it was what I had. I thought it might be cool to do a street style blog with just iPhone photos, but my younger brother said no, absolutely not. So for the next few months I focused on my SLR, which I bought a few years ago and then didn't use. Then, this past fall, my tutoring business got really busy and I didn't have much time to go out and shoot. The iPhone was easy, and it was always there. Now I figure that if anyone is going to hire me as a photographer, they're going to hire me for my eye, and I can worry about the mechanics then.

[The Styley]

It’s gutsy to go up to people and ask to take a picture. Have you gotten more used to it?
It's actually not that hard to do. Most people that I want to photograph have put some time and effort into what they're wearing, so they're usually flattered. Occasionally people look at me like I'm crazy, or ignore me. A lot of the time I just don't ask--I love candid streetstyle. There's a bit of a high that comes from it, because you just don't know whether or not you're going to get caught. I'm always running across the street or ahead of someone so that I can take their picture, or trying to look casual standing on a street corner waiting for someone to walk into my frame. 

[The Styley]

You currently are working also as a tutor and (non-blog) writer. Are you hoping to become a full time blogger or do you like the balancing act?
I want to do something that combines my two favorite things, writing and photography. In my fantasy life, I would working for Vanity Fair--or some similar magazine--and doing portraits, taking the pictures and writing the text. And getting paid a lot of money, of course.
This might sound weird, but I wouldn't say that I'm obsessed with fashion that way that personal style bloggers seem to be.

I don’t necessarily need to go to the shows. I want to be on the street outside the show photographing the people going in, or at the after party taking pictures and talking to people so I can capture who they really are. Doing portraiture. I'd love to photograph designers and interview them about their process, their philosophy, their aesthetic. I'm interested in people, their stories, and how the way they dress is part of who they are and how they see the world. And okay, I lied. It would be awesome to go to the shows.

[The Styley]

 I first started following you on twitter, then your blog. What I loved, and was so unique, was the text you paired with each photo. When I found out that you are an academic coach, it just made sense to me, because of your writing, which is really just a few words with the photo.
Thank you! I think I hit on something with that combination of photo and text. I really like Duane Michals. A lot of his work has a textual element--he writes by hand underneath the images. If there is an app that lets you write directly on an iPhone photo so that it looks like your handwriting, I want it. That's another reason I like shooting with the iPhone--being able to get the text directly on the images. Maybe there's a way to do it in Lightroom (I don't have Photoshop), but I haven't figured out what it is yet.

I've been writing since I was 8. I started taking pictures at the end of high school and all throughout college, although I didn't have a "real" camera--my first was a Pentax K-1000 that a bunch of my friends bought me for my 21st birthday--until my senior year of college. When I graduated I felt like I had to decide between photography and writing, and I chose writing because I had done it for longer. I focused on writing for years, and then when I started the blog, the photo stuff came back. I remembered, "Oh, yeah, I love this." And once I hit on that writing/photo combination I really felt like I was onto something. That's when I really got into Instagram.

Being a street style blogger is definitely different from being a personal style blogger, at least in terms of how to get into the industry. In some ways, it seems like it might be easier to be a personal style blogger, because there's a more obvious connection to brands.

[The Styley]

Very true. And also there is less connection with a street style blogger, since you are actually behind the camera. Readers don’t see you and learn as much about you.
Actually, I hate having my picture taken. I never, ever, like how I look. And in terms of writing about myself, I've been reluctant to reveal a lot, but I'm thinking about opening up a bit more. I'm not sure what's appropriate, and how much readers care. But I guess that is part of the trick, seeming to be personal without reavealing tons of stuff that is personal. And yet you have to be yourself, right? I guess it's all about finding balance, like everything else in life.

[The Styley]

Describe your perfect SF day:
First of all, it would be sunny and 65 degrees, not too cold, but just breezy enough to wear a T-shirt with a sweater. Then I would go to Blue Fog Market and get a Blue Bottle coffee and take my dog on a walk to Crissy Field. Then I would meet up with a friend and go to brunch at one of three places: Rose's Cafe in Cow Hollow, Dottie’s in the Tenderloin, or Just For You in the Dogpatch. I would spend the afternoon walking around the Mission taking pictures. Then I would go out to dinner--it would have to be with friends who have cars and who drive because I don't have a license--at the Buckeye Roadhouse in Marin. I would eat steak and order all the desserts on the menu. Eating, walking, photographing, hanging out with people I love--that would be my perfect day.

Do you have other favorite places for taking photographs?
I suspect that Hayes Valley is good but I haven't spent much time there. A month or so ago I had brunch at Just for You in the Dogpatch and got a few good shots. Japantown can be interesting. Downtown too, but less than you'd think. I feel like I spend a lot of time in the same places, and I need to broaden my horizons. I would like to go out to Berkeley, to Oakland. I feel like there might be interesting things going on there.

So no, I don’t have favorites. I’ve had a lot of luck in the Mission. There is always someone to photograph there, but, I hate to say it, I feel like there is also a lot of similarity. I love photographing when there is something happening, like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, because all kinds of people turn out. I also think it might be a good idea to try some areas that you don't necessarily think of when you think about style, like lower Fillmore or the Bayview.

[Despite hating being photographed, Kate let me take a few pictures of her. She really is The Styley!] 
What places would you recommend to someone visiting or just relocating to the Bay Area?
I would definitely take them to SFMOMA. It's a great museum--totally manageable. I would take them to Bi-Rite for ice cream. I would take them the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building, the one that’s totally touristy and still really fun. I would take them on a walk to Crissy Field and on the Alcatraz tour, which is awesome. I would take them to Dolores Park and around the Mission. I would take them to Hayes Valley for shopping. I would take them to Jeremy's in SoMA (Ed's note: or Berkeley!) Oh, and if the Alonzo King LINES Ballet was having its season, I would take them to one of their performances because Alonzo King is unbelievable.

Thanks so much, Kate! Go check out her shows and follow her adventures around SF at The Styley. 

1 comment:

blue roses said...

great interview pretty lady! i loved, loved, loved reading it.

(want to go back to SF NOW)