The woman in the photo is perched on a windowsill at night. She gazes into the camera somewhat defiantly and laughs. A black satin skirt with a decorative hem is hiked up above her knees. She isn’t a typical model and this isn’t a typical fashion shot. It’s the first image that was posted on the new fashion blog @bad_time_tlv, launched in late August by Tel Aviv-born fashion photographer Emily Kor.
This photo isn’t about the latest trends. It conveys a sense of a specific place and a specific time of day, and a specific person with a personal look simply being herself.
“I photograph my surroundings,” explains Kor, who in addition to her work in fashion also runs a Tel Aviv bar. “I have been working at the bar since I was 20. I’ve never left it. The world of nightlife and the world of photography inspire one another, they mesh together for me. I’m less interested in the next trend, I’m more attracted to personality and to the way in which someone presents himself to the world.”
It’s easy to understand what Kor, 41, means when one looks at her photos. A young woman in sporty shorts and a flowery midriff shirt dancing in a living room, a tattooed and bearded guy wearing a T-shirt, a woman with glasses smoking and glancing sideways, against a background of bushes – these images create a mosaic that combines a large range of personal styles and an atmosphere of liberation.
According to Kor, the name of the blog – a play on “bedtime” – is supposed to convey humor and lightheartedness, while also making a statement about the hours of the day to which it is devoted: Like her, the blog comes to life at night and is updated every day at exactly 10 P.M. In addition to the pictures of people she encounters while roaming the streets of Tel Aviv at night, once a week she posts a picture of herself taken by photographer Yariv Fein.
“Because I use a digital Polaroid camera there’s no option of a self-timer, but it is very important to me to be inside, so it will be at eye level, and it’s important to me to add my own input,” she tells me in a telephone interview.
In many senses, Kor operates alone in this arena. Although there are quite a number of Israeli fashion blogs, almost all are posted by women starring in their own productions. There are also a few blogs that feature clothing and beauty products, but despite repeated attempts – including Yael Sloma’s The Streets Walker blog, which operated from 2007 until 2013, first on an independent platform and later on the telavivian.com website – a blog devoted to street fashion has never lasted here for long.
The few local photographers, such as Asaf Liberfrund, who do go outside to shoot fashion, belong to the international “street style” school that emerged in the early 2000s. Ironically, blogs of that type don’t tend to document ordinary people as Kor does, but rather individuals with a clear link to the fashion world – or, as illustrator and photographer Garance Doré said in an interview with Elle magazine in 2013: “What we call street style isn’t actually street style at all, it’s fashion-week style.”
If you have to choose a category, apparently Kor’s photos belong to the “peep style” school, a movement established in recent years to counter the ironed and uniform look of today’s “street style” images. Prominent purveyors of this school, including photographers such as French-American David Luraschi and Englishman Alex Sturrock, provide a rough and “genuine” response to a virtual space that is flooded with images of people from the industry or the ordinary amateur fashionistas who have been dubbed “peacocks.” Luraschi even refrains from posing his subjects and photographs them from behind.
Although the documentation of street fashion originated in the early 1900s, when illustrator Edward Linley Sambourne drew well-dressed women on the streets of London, the custom became popular only in the late 1960s, thanks to New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. For decades Cunningham, who died this past June, photographed people with an interesting personal style on the streets of New York. In a 2009 article about him in The New Yorker, his column “On The Street” was described as the “New York’s high-school yearbook.”
Aside from Cunningham, Amy Arbus – daughter of photographer Diane Arbus – is also considered one of the field’s pioneers. In the 1980s, while working for The Village Voice, she would photograph people who had a unique or alternative personal style, which at the time was considered unusual.
But in the fashion industry today, there seems to be a broad consensus that street-style photos are a phenomenon of the 2000s. Vogue magazine even cites June 2007 as a significant date: That was the month Scott Schuman’s blog The Sartorialist first appeared. Schuman may be the photographer most identified with the present wave of modern street-fashion images. As noted in an article in that magazine this past April, “Back then Schuman had the territory almost all to himself ... But it wasn’t long before the streets outside the men’s and women’s shows were thronged with photographers angling for images of editors, retailers, and other influencers.”
The pictures that flood the internet have had a decisive influence on the fashion world. Brent Luvaas, an American researcher who specializes in the connection between street-fashion photography and anthropology, told The Guardian in 2014 that, “the problem began when they started photographing people outside shows instead of real people on the street.” He went on to explain that, “Street style used to be about documenting real fashion – it was meant to be alternative to magazine fashion. But then it started to require shooting the kinds of people the readers of fashion publications were interested in, and that turned out to be more the insiders than everyday people.”
Luvaas, who calls the phenomenon “cannibalism,” added: “What is apparent is that since 2009, if you search for street style, all that comes up is fashion week.”
In general, with regard to current efforts to document street style, Emily Kor says, “There really is something poster-like in some of the blogs, which convey the clothes but not the personality.” But she adds: “There are also things that I really like. I’m not against this. I can relate to images that are more tailored if there’s something special about them.”
Despite her positive attitude, it’s not surprising to discover that Kor didn’t get along in Israel's established fashion world, until she decided to abandon her work as a professional fashion photographer seven years ago.
“I found myself less in that world. For a year and a half, I didn’t touch my camera, until I suddenly began photographing with my iPhone and I didn’t care how it looked. That was a happy moment, I simply wanted to take pictures,” she explains, adding that at the same time, she drifted back to the fashion world through her work on FRFI Bags & Clothing, which she started with Nofar Faingezicht – a brand featuring bags bearing Kor’s images imprinted on them. For the first time in seven years, she seems to have found her place again, and it’s not in a studio or at the end of a catwalk. There’s only her, the subject of the photo and no hint of the established industry.
“There’s something very intimate about standing in front of someone without any intermediary, like a make-up artist or a stylist. There’s something more relaxed about people at night. They come to have a good time, they have fewer defenses. Their day is already over.”
Five street-fashion blogs/bloggers worth knowing about:
There are quite a few “peacocks” and other critics of fashion weeks appearing on the blog of American photographer Phil Oh, but it’s mainly in his photos from outside the fashion centers of the world that you can find the real pearls.
The fashion industry has dubbed the photographer “the sartorialist of sadness.” It’s hard to ignore the power of his images, which include subjects of all ages and genders.
The British photographer admits that he looks for the most “ordinary” subjects there are. The description line on his Instagram account includes only the words: “without adornment.”
This blog was started in 2008 by the Greek photographers Alkistis Tsitouri and Aris Karatarakis, who began working together at the peak of the hype surrounding fashion-week photos, but manage to maintain a reasonable balance with “real” subjects.
Brent Luvaas, an anthropology professor who photographs street fashion, started this blog and continues to keep abreast of the way in which his subject is documented in the media and by other bloggers.