Samir Benson is a street style photographer based in London. He has shoot a multitude of fashion elites including Anna dello Russo, Nick Rooster, and Sarah Harris, to name a few. Maia Wilson asked him some questions about his photography journey.
1. What intrigues you most about photographing people in their most candid state?
I think that’s something I have picked up over time. Shooting street style at fashion week is very fast paced, people are always in a rush running from one location to another one so I am used to shooting people from a distance. Sometimes I get noticed sometimes I don’t. From the beginning I have preferred the shots that were the most natural looking.
2. For people who don’t know, where are you from?
Je suis français ! Yes I am French but I have been living in London for nearly 10 years now so London feels just as much as home, as when I am back in France.
Before London I was living in south of France, in Toulouse where I studied computer science at university. I actually grew up in West Africa in Benin Republic, as my dad settled there to create his IT business.
3. What was your first memory of taking photography?
I grew up in Benin Republic; I went to a French high school there, we were heavily influenced by American street fashion, music and culture. After graduating from high school I threw a huge party to celebrate, I bought a throwaway film Kodak camera and I captured everyone who came at the party. Our style was very different back then, we were wearing non conformist clothing. Baggy tee shirts, jeans and sneakers were our go-to.
4.What drew you to photography and what keeps you going at it?
Since my teen days my philosophy of life was “Carpe Diem”, Latin for “seize the day” or “seize the moment” For me it is not about forgetting the past or ignoring future challenges but really enjoying the present.
Photographing street style allow me to do that on a day to day basis, my interests are fashion and photography. It truly makes me happy when I go out with my camera and I capture little “moments” of style. It is now my lifestyle.
5. Where did you learn photography?
I studied computer science but quickly realised that it was not for me. But one skill that stayed with me from my years of learning new coding languages is developing methods to learn in an efficient way. So when I made the decision to learn how to use my camera to its full potential, I developed a method to be able to learn in my spare time using all the free but useful content that is out there on the internet. I am still learning to this day and I don’t think I will ever stop. As far as having an eye for beautiful photography, I feel like that is something you either have or don’t have. If you have it then it is a continuous effort to develop it and make it the best in the industry.
6. What drew you to fashion specifically?
I started photography capturing urban landscapes in London, I was getting no interest whatsoever. A friend of mine came to London to visit and asked me to meet him at Somerset house, the home of London fashion week at the time. I was testing out these new compact cameras called micro four thirds. So I met
My friend there with my camera, and I remember getting overwhelmed with the styles and fashion I saw that day, some really great ones but also some horrible outfits. I took some photos and posted them on social media mainly facebook, the response was fantastic.
7. What type of cameras do you use?
I started with an Olympus EP-3 with 25mm focal length, then I bought a reflex Nikon D3200. Now I use a full frame Nikon D610 with an 85mm 1.4 focal length.
8. What is your funniest memory shooting on the streets?
Hmm funny, but embarrassing is me nearly falling down as I run after a vogue editor ( Sarah Harris ) in Paris, I was just trying to take a photo. I remember laughing for a while with a fellow photographer about the whole thing.
9. Who has been your favorite person to photograph?
Definitely Sarah Harris from British Vogue she has an incredible effortless style, she is so charismatic, and I am in love with her hair!
10. What is the craziest thing you’ve photographed someone wearing?
“I thought I’d start a blog about fashion. Convey that pure sense of style. You see, I’ve always considered myself a man of statements. There’s little I wouldn’t do to make my point and I’ve never felt the need to ask for validation. I don’t need it – especially not from the rest of you zombies. Most of you add up to little more than broken down creatures compelled to walk in endless circles, roaming the Earth in the hope that someone will notice you despite your intolerable absence of flair. But of course, not everyone can pull off being themselves. Truth be told, I myself wasn’t always this sharp. I used to come off a little shy in my young years, moving around the side lines, not too sure whether to speak up or nurture my enigmatic stance. In time I taught myself a most valuable lesson: whenever you feel like you’re overdoing it, like it’s a bit too much of yourself to put out there, remember that it doesn’t matter who stands across you, what look they give you, whatever judgment or contempt you read in their lifeless eyes. You are important, you. You are the one they are going to remember, the image of you, and this is why your fashion choices matter. If you refuse to make them, you are invisible. You won’t always be perfect but you’ll learn just that. Perfection is sincerity. If your outsides reflect your insides, what could you possibly do wrong? So you see, it’s all about confidence, of course, but mostly it’s about not giving a shit. Nobody may bring you down. Tastes are not universal and this, my friend, is pretty darn awesome. This is what this blog is going to be about. Celebrating those of us who know not how to lie, who will stand tall and pull off their true colours. I pull off mine. Do you pull off yours? Do not forget: if you ever notice something gauche in your overall appearance, don’t run home and change. Embrace your gaucheness. It’s part of you, and you’ll do better tomorrow. Every day is a new day, and a new chance to be decisively sophisticated. I mean, look at me, look how those leggings are working for me. Pink is the new black, man”.
This was written by Nathalie Giaffreda, she is a french writer and was really inspired by this photo, we are working on an upcoming project featuring my photographs and short stories written by her. I just thought I would share this with you guys at Atlas magazine.
11. What advice could you give readers who are interested in street style photography?
Go out and take photos, you will get better at it with time depending on how good you are but most importantly connect with people, you never know who is standing in front of your camera.
12. How often do you travel because of photography and what are the coolest places you’ve been?
I try to travel as much as I can mainly going to fashion weeks like Paris and Milan but most of my time is spent in London. I love streetstyle and it is a lot of fun but ultimately I am working to develop my craft as a fashion photographer.
13. What companies/partnerships have you photographed for?
I am quite a versatile photographer, I am still on the quest of finding my identity as a photographer. So I have really done quite a lot of different assignments. From blogs to small magazines, from small brands to bigger brands, even some art gallery events or exhibitions.
At the moment I work with Man Repeller, I have also worked with a couple of jewellery brand like Cadenzza, and Adele Dejak. I have photographed at a few events organised by Burberry during London Collection Men, also at Joshua Kane runway show.
14. What’s your top trick for shooting “undercover?”
I shoot with an 85 mm lens, it gives me room to breathe and shoot without getting too much in the face of my subject. I think with practice you can definitely master shooting on the streets and go unnoticed, but I take great pride in once the shot is taken to try and connect with my subject. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t.
15. What aspirations do you have for the next few years?
I have a few projects in the pipeline and I am working on setting up my own studio
16. What do you love most about living in London?
The crowd here in London is just outstanding in terms of the number of people working in creative industries. It is just amazing the amount of great people I meet on my day to day life just capturing people!
All images taken by Samir Banson.