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Strike a pose: how street-style photography stole fashion week

Strike a pose: how street-style photography stole fashion week

Street-style stars, those fashion-forward folks papped outside shows, have arguably become as trend-setting as any model or celebrity. At one of this season’s most hyped shows, JW Anderson in London, for example, over 50 photographers swarmed outside the entrance looking for their photographic prey, making it hard for the more unremarkably dressed among us to reach the door. In the last five years, the scene has grown exponentially. The shot outside the show is now as influential – and valuable – as the one of the model on the catwalk.

But attending the shows in a photograph-worthy outfit does not a street-style star make. For that you need the black-clad photographers – now a familiar presence outside shows, snapping editors, influencers and insiders – willing to take the pictures that then get picked up off their Instagram feeds and used by the street-style stars themselves, often then becoming fodder for a slew of other fashionable feeds. But these images are often used without the photographers’ permission, and without a fee.

This fashion month, a group of about 40 photographers decided to draw attention to the issue, forming a union of sorts. During Milan fashion week, they launched the #NoFreePhotos campaign on social media. The campaign is aimed at influencers, bloggers and brands that, the photographers say, gain revenue through using their images without sharing the earnings. Influencers and bloggers are often paid by brands – or at least compensated with free flights or clothes – in exchange for social media posts of themselves in the outfits.

However, many of the photographers are freelance, with some taking pictures for no money at all. Katz Sindig is one such photographer. He says he spends anything between $8,000 and $15,000 in expenses in an average fashion month, travelling between New York, London, Milan and Paris. Both Sindig and Valentina Frugiuele, another photographer involved in #NoFreePhotos, declined to say how much they earn for a photograph. (Frugiulele did say: “I don’t even want to think about it.”) While each image could be sold for a relatively low fee, if that image is syndicated to different outlets over a season, it can, quite literally, be a money shot.

In striking contrast, the notoriety that comes with being a street-style star can bring serious bucks. In a recent article, Zanita Whittington, an ex-model and influencer who has more than 350,000 followers on Instagram, estimated that she could earn up to $100,000 (£75,000) in a typical New York fashion week if she said yes to every deal offered. With street style a “huge part” of her business, she knows how to play the game, maximising her visibility to gain the maximum amount of pictures. “The trick is to walk to the show,” she said. “That way you get more shots in.”

The photographers’ campaign, according to a campaign press release, will involve omitting the Instagram name of the person in the photo from posts, and not including a hashtag for the brand worn in the image. #NoFreePhotos photographers will also contact users of their work if it is used “without receiving the proper licence and securing compensation for the photographer”. If the issue is not addressed, they will reply to the image on social media with the #NoFreePhotos hashtag, effectively calling the user out. If necessary, they will seek legal advice.

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