At Watching New York, an Instagram account that captures the creativity, bohemian soul and freedom of New York street style, photographer Johnny Cirillo has put together one of the best albums to showcase New York street fashion. Photo by photo, Watching New York presents the vintage, ‘rock and roll’, exuberant and eternally ‘cool’ style of one of the great cities of fashion. The Instagram account with more than 730 thousand followers is, as Cirillo defines it, a project of what he considers fashion through spontaneous images of real life that, in turn, capture not only casual outfits but also the subjects that are they move around the city. What better catwalk than that of everyday life that is not afraid of creative experimentation, right? “I like that Watching New York is a good representation of true New York street style. That’s what I hope people take away from the project,” says Cirillo, who takes most of the project’s photos from Brooklyn. Cirillo is undeniably influenced by fashion photographer Bill Cunningham who, through his photography, chronicled the culture of New York and its ways of dressing and being. In 2016, the day Cunningham passed away, Cirillo began photographing street fashion to honor him and because he thought “it could be something fun.” “It was really my wife (Kristen Cirillo) who, when I came home and showed her the photos, she encouraged me to continue dating. And I haven’t stopped since that day,” he relates. Cirillo never imagined that his account would receive the reception that he has had and assures that when he started he did not have a plan or a specific message: “More than anything I wanted was to document what I was seeing on the streets.” Every Watching New York photo documents how cool, edgy and exciting New York street style is. Perhaps for this reason, each image has a fun imprint and a reflection of the urban dynamics of the big city and the multiple influences that make up its ‘street style’. “I try to combine a little bit of everything I see, whether it’s something very flashy, minimalist or ‘maximal’. I like to show everything and put it under an umbrella of ‘this is what people are doing’ from my point of view,” he says. In curating him, the photographer bets on portraying “real people with real style”. Behind these photos there are no intermediaries or artifices, there are no stylists or the scaffolding of a photography session. “I did photography for many years and it’s a lot of set-up with the scene, the place, the lights, the action, the clothes and the makeup, and when you think about it, none of it is real,” he says of the spontaneity of his work. process. Watching New York has a narrative pulse from the images to the shoes that in many cases contain a brief account of the fashion that is exhibited or the people who wear it. Each photo tells a story that goes beyond the clothes people wear, but that is something that has developed in recent years. At first, Cirillo took photos from a distance and did not speak to the people she portrayed. Then, as the project grew, she decided to reach out to the subjects of her photos for permission. Ella Cirillo explains that she was afraid of putting someone in a compromising situation “because they were in a city or situation they shouldn’t be in.” Since then, asking permission has evolved to talking to people and asking them about the clothes they are wearing. That act of conversation has left Cirillo with a compendium of stories that excite him. “I would go home and show my wife, Kristen, a picture of someone and tell her that this person told me that what she was wearing was once her grandmother’s blanket and she turned it into what she was wearing. Kristen asked me why she didn’t film people and ask them on camera about those stories,” he says, acknowledging Kristen’s integral influence on her project. Those exchanges with the people he portrays have revealed to Cirillo not only a bit of those lives but a confirmation that clothing is a way of manifesting people’s identity and accents. “The project now is different from its beginnings and something that I absolutely love.” “Johnny has a very charismatic way of portraying his subjects and the fact that he presents his stories makes his page even more incredible,” says influencer Darnell Bernard who has been portrayed by Cirillo on several occasions as well as captured on video. Amber Strickland, who has also been photographed by Cirillo at different times, emphasizes that the photographer has managed to “represent a true kaleidoscope of people”. “Johnny gracefully embraces a platform that elevates self-expression, giving people an opportunity to feel noticed and appreciated for his individualism, something all people want and deserve,” says Strickland. Looking ahead, Cirillo promises the account’s followers more stories, and a continued focus on the tales of the people he portrays. It is that Watching New York is fashion, but it is also the city and its people because both, in this photographic project, are complementary. Although the city is always out of focus because it is New York’s ‘street style’ that occupies the foreground, Watching New York involves looking at New York fashion but from the story of the people who make up this photo album. “To be honest, Watching New York is, to me, about the people who make New York. If they take people out of the city, New York ceases to be this wonderful place. It’s the people that make New York. So Watching New York,” Cirillo reflects, “is really ‘watching New Yorkers. So that’s what I mean when I say Watching New York.” Fashion, after all, can be an eloquent interpreter of what a city and its people are like. In the photos of Watching New York, at least, that is evidenced.
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– Article Written By @Carmen Graciela from https://smoda.elpais.com/moda/watching-new-york-el-album-de-la-moda-de-las-calles-neoyorquinas/