“The goal for me is to always try and make photographs that are more beautiful than what was photographed.” – Andre Wagner
Andre Wagner is a New York based photographer who takes street style photography to a new level. He looks beyond the aesthetics and lets his curiosity wonder. Who is this person? Where have they been? Where are they going? From his focus on their reactions and appearances, Wagner lets his mind wander to create potential narratives of his subjects’ lives. He roams the streets daily in search of those rare moments he has to capture.
Wagner seeks out a particular subject on the New York streets: someone with an original, fearless style who inspires him with their ability to stand out from the crowd. One of his photos, published in the New York Times, was of a man with head to toe tattoos, dozens of piercings, and a cigarette loosely leaning against his lips. Wagner explained his fascination with the man by stating: “He obviously has his own personality and he’s wearing it on his sleeve, literally. Something about his eyes and the way he is looking at me added this other thing to the photograph that you can’t necessarily put your finger on.” The strong charisma of the people radiate out of the photo with their distinctive attires and attitudes. An ephemeral, yet inspiring connection is formed between the New Yorkers and the camera in the midst of the hustling sidewalks, which can be sensed in the photos.
Stylistic choices and devices are added to Wagner’s photos in order to augment his fascination with the subjects. For one thing, in most of his portraits the person is directly looking at the camera. He likes to capture the initial moment the subjects notice they are being photographed because their reactions indicate so much of their personalities. All of his photos are in black and white and involve movement. His motivation to shoot black and white photography is purely an aesthetic preference. As for movement, it stems from his background in basketball. The streets are like a game to him where, and as he claims in the New York Times, “every scene is new and the people are different and you have to react immediately — often with just your instinct.” Thus, he captures the energy of the environment around him while pushing himself further as a photographer.
Although the Washington University campus does not share the same vivacity as New York City, I sought out to see if Wagner’s photographic style could have the same effect with student street style. The results were a more relaxed pace to suit the surroundings, but the human connection is still present.