Copenhagen-based, American photographer Adam Katz Singing is a true innovator in the realm of street style photography. He approached this career casually, while working in New York in a hotel. From a hobby, it soon became his main profession, making himself a name in the fashion industry, getting called by the most celebrated magazines and brands in the world, and capturing street style moments on the streets. LATEST got a chance to interview him, finding out how it all began, his main considerations on today’s fashion weeks, his passion for travel and much more.
How did you first approach to street style photography? Can you tell us a little bit more about your background?
My father was a hobby photographer aside from being a prosecuting attorney. He used to go on epic backpacking trips and take these amazing panoramic photos on his old Nikon film camera. I always thought it was really cool and when he passed away when I was 11 years old, I inherited his cameras. I never did too much with them aside from once taking a black and white photography class when I was maybe 14 or so. When digital photography was “invented” I bought a Nikon D70 and started to take photos around Seattle with some of my friends. It wasn’t until around 2007 when I started to take photos of people on the street on my way to and from my job at the W Hotel in downtown Seattle. This was always a hobby, but when I moved to New York in 2011 it began to take off a bit. I was approached by Elle magazine to shoot girls around the streets of Manhattan and as I was unsuccessful in finding another job at a hotel in NYC, I had lots of time on my hands to stand around the streets of SoHo and the Lower East Side and approach people to photograph them. When I finally did secure a job at a hotel, I found that I was always wishing I was out on the street taking photos. Even when I got a job as a product photographer at Opening Ceremony in SoHo, I still found ways to make excuses to leave the office in hopes of finding cool people on my way to get coffee or food. Finally, I began to travel around to Fashion Weeks in London, Milan, Paris, Copenhagen, and Sydney, and my employers weren’t too fond of the idea of me never being around, so they gave me ultimatums, and I chose photography…and here we are.
You’ve documented street style moments of several fashion weeks around the world. What is the atmosphere like in smaller fashion events? Do you find it more stimulating? What you’re looking for when capturing people on the streets?
I love small fashion weeks because I get to see new people instead of the cliché cast of characters we see in the “Big 4”. The only problem with small fashion weeks is the pace is very slow, so I find myself being a bit lazy. It’s a bit of a conundrum I suppose. I’m not looking for anything. I just shoot what catches my eye. To shoot with a specific goal or looking for a specific trend is extremely boring and consumerist. I have absolutely zero desire to participate in the propagation of consumption.
What is your relationship with fashion? Do you like what you see through your lens nowadays? How much of your personal taste and objective documentation are involved in your projects?
I fall out of love with fashion a bit more every season. It’s become banal and superficial. That being said, there are still a FEW designers who I find interesting, but even those niche designers are consumed by people with great wealth and great lack of taste, eventually destroying the brand for me.
You published “This is not a F*cking Street Style Book” in 2018, and “Live From F*cking Nowhere in 2019; in the latter you focused on the itinerant side of your profession, on your travels, and the things you saw around the world. Can you tell us a little bit more about these two publications? Where the need to create a book aside from fashion came from?
The whole world these days is about novelty and constant stimulation. It’s exciting and at the same time extremely boring. I take photos and post them on various social media platforms, but people only look at them for a fraction of a second and then they are effectively forgotten. The idea to do a book was to have a more engaged audience, one who doesnt swipe through and double-tap. The tangibility of a book is major for a photographer. To see your images in “real life” versus on a backlit screen in the palm of your hand is very rewarding. The ideas were pitched to me by Mendo in Amsterdam and they helped me to find the right path and narrative and the idea to work with Virgil Abloh and Errolson Hugh to do the respective forewords was MAJOR. It’s just a nice little trophy for me, and the books, if I do say so myself, are beautiful. People seem to love what’s inside and they look DAMN good on the shelf.
Street style is about authenticity and capturing natural instants in some way. How do you stay true to this principle now that more than ever the impression we get from street style photography in general is that of people actually posing or pretending to be casually photographed?
As I’d said above, I shoot what I like. I can see authenticity and I can see who’s been “bought” or who is just wearing what they “should” wear to be relevant. I think any of the photographers who have been around long enough see through this façade and elect not to shoot the poseurs. However it’s also important at times to document the inauthenticity as that is the new face of “street style” and it’s important to show how ridiculous the whole scene can be at times. If we all only photographed the men and women who hold true to their own aesthetics, everyone would be bored…as many of those peoples’ styles do not evolve at a pace which our Instagram-mind requires. Their authenticity is deemed “boring” as we need novelty in order to be stimulated…which is a horrible problem.
Do you have a special event or project in your mind you really enjoyed working at?
My Tom Ford campaigns I would say are my crowning acheivements. I would love to do more with Mr. Ford, and hope to do large-scale campaigns with other brands as well.
Your portraits have something magnetic that really hypnotizes the viewer. You seem to be able to capture what’s going on in people’s mind and present it to us through your gaze. How much of instinct and how much of rationality are involved when you shoot?
There is not much thought that goes into this. I see an extraordinary face and I want to document it. It’s all for me…not the viewer. In fact, all of my photos you see are pretty much shot for me, for my own diary…and if people like it, that’s wonderful, but the primary goal is to fulfil my own journey each day. Faces are engaging. “Beautiful” faces are nice to look at. It’s just an equation in the end.
Do you have any advice for those who wish to explore this career path?
Just shoot. Every day. Make mistakes. I do. Just don’t make the same mistake twice. My path is not a path to be followed anymore. I came along with “street style” very early on when there were only a few photographers who preceded me. The same opportunities which were there when I started and before are not longer there. Street style as a genre is -I would say- on a decline, so to hope to follow that path would likely be fruitless. But photography will always be desired, so I would suggest focusing on a more broad spectrum of paths.
Any post-pandemic projects?
I don’t have pandemic projects. Work has effectively ceased, save for a few small jobs. My post-pandemic project is to stay afloat.
all images courtesy of Adam Katz Sinding