Get to Know Fashion Photographer Dan Bassini
Dan Bassini (@danbassini) doesn't photograph to document, he photographs to reproduce the feeling of the moment. Dan has been documenting life from behind the lens of a camera since childhood, starting with photographing local bands and was eventually accepted into the Hallmark School of Professional Photography. Since then, Dan's growing portfolio features everything from weddings, to concerts, to fashion shows. Learn more about the man behind the lens here.
Interviewer Mayah Taylor (@mayah) is Ello’s Giveaway Manager & Community Specialist. She loves tacos, fashion, Doctor Who and wears too much black.
Fashion at times can be stagnant, in need of inspiration. At other times, fashion can be fresh, new, exciting. New Jersey-based street & fashion photographer, @danbassini’s work embodies just that. Shooting influential figures in and out of the industry, his photography sets itself apart from some of his other contemporaries: he shoots in 35mm. You know Dan Bassini immediately when you see his work; coming fresh off a second volume of is Fashion Week photobook, “No Invite”, we dive into the chaotic, fashionable work of the film photographer.
Buy your copies of “No Invite: Vol. 1 & 2” here.
When I first saw your work, it captured my attention with its loud, “raw”, high-contrast vibe. It’s obvious that some of the people you shoot on the streets of New York are not at all “average” and I love the way you capture their personalities and style. When did you become interested in fashion and street style?
Fashion was always something that caught my eye. Growing up in New Jersey, we used to have a TV channel called the Metro Network that was focused on New York City culture. One of the things they would do is play the runway shows during Fashion Week and I would be transfixed. It wasn't until I moved to Jersey City that I was able to go out and experience the chaos for myself. The street style interest came much later. The street is where the interesting people are. Most photos taken on the runway are for documentary purposes, with the focus mainly on the clothes. I'm more interested the attitude and the person wearing the clothes.
How and why did you make the decision to shoot with 35mm film as opposed to shooting digital, like most fashion and street photographers today?
My digital camera feels mostly like a tool to me. It's what I use when I'm shooting weddings or events that require quick turn around and high volume. Almost all of my other work is done on film. I prefer shooting film for a number of reasons. With film, I know I can use a certain camera with a certain film stock and get a specific look. It keeps me more mindful of my shots and keeps me from overshooting. It allows me to focus more on capturing the moment, rather than focusing on perfection. It's all very backward and archaic thinking, but it's what works for me.
As someone who’s passionate about fashion and inspired by the strange and provocative micro-universe that is Fashion Week, I enjoy seeing the candidness captured by your camera when you shoot some of the industry’s current influencers and models. Can you tell us more about how you came to photograph some of the people and parties featured in “No Invite”? Do you have a favorite portrait from Fashion Week?
Honestly, the biggest key is finding out where things are happening and being there. Not all the shows are listed on the main schedule, so asking other photographers can help you track down things you may otherwise miss. One of my favorite photos from Vol. 2 is of model Slick Woods. She had just finished walking for the Helmut Lang show and was getting mobbed by photographers outside. She and her crew hustle down the street to wait for a cab and I walked over out of the madness to ask politely if I could take her photo. She told me I can but just one, and I told her that’s all I need. I take the shot and she notices what I'm shooting and says "Oh you got that 35mm, that's how I know you ain't a bitch!" and all I could say in response was "Thank you!"
Tell us more about what inspired you to make “No Invite”. Do you have any plans for Vol. 3?
The whole idea for No Invite was born mostly out of necessity. I wanted to be involved in fashion week but started out knowing literally nothing about how to go about doing it. I didn't know who to contact, where to go, or even what part of the city things were taking place when I first started out. After some hilarious failures, I did my research and at least found a schedule of what was happening where, but I still didn't know how to get into these events with no connections. So I did the only thing I could think of, I snuck in. This mentality stuck even this past season when I probably could have gone through some more of the proper channels. It's just not as fun. I'm actually champing at the bit for February to come around and I can get started on Vol. 3. After approaching Vol. 2 with a much more focused approach, I can't wait to start shooting for the next volume.
Fashion week is intense, beautiful and chaotic, for designers, models, photographers and anyone involved. Do you aspire to make your way inside of the big, black tent for a major in the future? Which designer or runway collection would you shoot?
I've gotten into runway shows and presentations and they don't interest me much on a photography level. I love being involved and seeing the collections, but actually being in the media risers shooting the runway show doesn't seem like it'd be for me. It's two dozen photographers all piled on top of each other shooting the same photo. I think I'd much prefer shooting backstage stuff, something I could have more control over. I'd love to shoot a designer using interesting and non-traditional models. Helmut Lang seen by Shayne Oliver this year was a great example, using some of the most interesting male and female models out there to bring some attitude and character to compliment the collection. I think it'd be a fun challenge to photograph a Ralph Lauren collection to add a little edge to their classic looks.
In fashion, a muse is incredibly influential. Who or what inspires you and your work?
I draw a lot of inspiration from street photography which is all about capturing the right moment and looking for interesting details in the world. When I'm hitting the streets during fashion week, it's easy to get sensory overload. It's important to not lose track of the details.
For photographers, I really love the work of Ryan McGinley and Chad Moore. They have a way of capturing youth that I'm forever admiring.
What are some of the craziest things you’ve had to do or lengths you’ve gone to achieve a great portrait or shot?
This most recent season I had to sneak or talk my way into a few places. I got into a party at SoHo house by following in a group who had a key to get in, when they all got stopped at the front desk I just kept walking to the elevator. I used someone else's RVSP to get into the Calvin Luo show at The Whitney. I ran into an old friend I hadn't seen in years who gave me his worker's pass that got me into the Skylight all week. I'm not climbing balconies or breaking in anywhere, I don't have any interest in getting in that way. I'd rather see how far confidence and a camera can get me.
Name someone, living or dead that you’d sit down and shoot with:
I'd love to have the chance to sit down with the late Bill Cunningham. He pretty much created the idea of street style photography and did it until the day he died. A true artist who lived and breathed his work and put everything he had into it.
Do you have any advice for young creators and photographers in the fashion industry?
The best advice I have for anyone starting out in photography is shoot shoot shoot. The only way to hone your craft and find your style is to keep shooting. If you choose to shoot film, try different films in different cameras and take note of the results you get from each combo. If you want to photograph something and you don't know where to start, be resourceful and find your own way. Don't work for free.
You can follow Dan on Ello, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.