I met Giuseppe Santamaria, a men’s street style photographer, back in 2011 covering NYFW together. Since I’ve watched Giuseppe’s career and photography really grow into something very special in the men’s style realm. So special, in fact, that a book of his photographs was published this September called “Men in This Town“. Giuseppe’s approach to photography, men’s fashion, and street style is quite romantic and not at all trendy or concerned with the “who’s who”. He really shoots from his heart. We sat down at our studio last week to catch up and ask him all about his first book~
Above, a portrait of the photographer photographed on 4×5 black & white film
How did Men in this Town begin?
It started with a tweet. I had photographed my friend’s cookbook cover, and then I started following his publisher on Twitter. One day he said, “Done for 2013 books. Onto next year. Any ideas?” I jokingly tweeted back, “How about a Men in This Town book?” And a year later, it came out.
When did you first start photographing?
By trade I’m a graphic designer. I’ve been working with photos and amazing photographers my entire career. That’s where my eye was trained – not conventionally at all.
How did you learn photography?
I didn’t! My interest in photography came from work. I wanted to get into photography, but I didn’t want to take pictures and then do nothing with them. I come from a magazine background – I wanted these pictures to have a home, to be a project. Street style had become mainstream by that time (2010), and I loved that genre, the photographers and how they captured life. That’s what spoke to me the most – that moments that weren’t necessarily romantic became romantic.
I mainly photographed men because I was interested in menswear and I started in Sydney. Menswear was starting to boom there, guys were doing more things with their fashion. It’s where I was living, so I just started there! There’s not many street style blogs based there, so it was a great place to begin.
What kind of camera are you working with?
I’m now using a D600. I’ve only ever used the 50mm lens – it does the job for me. I feel I should kind of explore more, but it really has become my nature. My camera is attached to my hand every day for a solid chunk of hours…it’s a natural extension of my arm. I’m comfortable with it. It would be an adjustment to try anything new.
Do you ever feel invasive? Or are you comfortable with the photographer/stranger public relationship?
I like observing. I’m originally an outsider, and I like it that way. I don’t want to be on the inside. No one has ever rejected or put their hands up; I’ve never had any negative reactions or responses, so I guess I’m doing well at my job, which is sort of to be invisible.
How important is Tumblr for you creatively?
It’s satisfying to have an audience that follows along. If I put up a photo, potentially half a million people could see it. I’ve always loved magazines, and it’s like I have my own column. I’m inspired by Bill Cunningham in that way – that his audience has remained steady and calm, that people are consistently interested.
Favorite destination ever photographed?
Tokyo. Every corner you turn, there’s something to shoot. The attention to detail in their fashion is done immaculately. Even if someone is trying to go with a gangster/rapper type look, they do it so well!
You’re from Canada, but you’re Italian, and you live in Australia. How do you describe yourself? What perspective do you think this gives you?
I listened to – I think it was a TED talk – that talked about how people nowadays are kind of citizens of the world. The world is such a small place because of global travel, because of the Internet, everything. I had struggles growing up in Canada, because I wanted to move to New York. By chance, I ended up moving to Australia with a friend after college – I never would have guessed that I would have ended up there. It was weird to adjust to that idea, that this is where my life was and it wasn’t what I expected, but now I love it!
I have little spots in New York, I have little spots in Italy that feel like home. I’m comfortable and satisfied with that now. Sydney is an amazing base to have, but I also have the opportunity to travel and get my fix.
Has photographing mens’ street style affected your personal style?
I think it has! I’m still learning, I’m still developing my style. I’m 28, it’s not set in stone. Some of the older men I’ve profiled for the blog and for the book, their words of wisdom were, “Use your twenties to try new things and have fun with it and fail sometimes!” I’m starting to find what my style is, personally. By the time I’m in my 30s, I think I’ll have found my own style that I’m comfortable with.
When you come to NYC, what are your favorite spots?
Best people-watching spot in NYC?
Just the streets. When I’m here, I’m literally walking around everywhere. There’s not much more to it. I don’t do much of the social aspect – I am a bit of a loner. But when you’re walking on the city streets, you don’t feel all that alone.
What’s next? Where do you want to shoot next?
Ideally it would be a second book, and I could keep going with them! I want to document this decade we’re living in. The major places I’ve covered are Sydney, Tokyo, Milan, London, and New York. I thought they were the major places to get an example of what fashion was in this moment.
I’d love to get into the second cities – Melbourne in Australia, for example, is totally different from Sydney. Berlin would be amazing. It would also be great to go after other places, ones that the Western world hasn’t touched all that much – somewhere in India, Mexico. I’d also love to go back to my other homes – Bari, the small city in Italy where my family is from, and Brampton! People asked why Canada wasn’t in the first book, but it was my home so it didn’t feel new. Now that I’ve lived away from it for so long, it might.
What menswear brands are doing it right?
Male style icon?
The men I feature in the book all had an element to what I kind of look at for inspiration. They all had confidence in the way that they dressed and they owned their looks, 100%. That’s the theme of what I try to do and the man I try to find. That’s the kind of man I find inspiring. It’s fashion, it’s fun. Express yourself. If you own it and have the confidence, it’s all about you, that’s what a fashion icon is to me.
Men are…handsome, very handsome.
Street photography is…fascinating and romantic.
I find inspiration in…the streets.