The life of a street style photographer is not as easy as it might seem. I learned this first hand while spending 4-hours with photographer Corey Chalumeau. I had only been to Bushwick a handful of times, and to be honest I thought the neighborhood only consisted of hipsters and budding creatives. I wasn’t too far off, but the neighborhood definitely has some great things to offer. As I capture Corey snapping street style photos, we talk about life, photography and fashion while visiting some of his favorite spots in the neighborhood.
Just like our chill afternoon, capturing the perfect street style shot is far from staged, it’s organic. Even in a short five-minute interaction, Corey finds a way to make a connection with everyone he shoots. When scrolling through his Instagram feed, his trademarked Streetsnaps ooze with a raw energy and intimacy that you might not find on other street style pages. Whether it’s an unsuspecting celebrity, fashion editor or just a guy with cool sneakers, Corey has a keen eye for style making him someone to watch.
Saturday School: You brand your street style photography Streetsnaps. Where did you get the inspiration for the name, and what made you want to start it?
Corey Chalumeau: I have a friend from Pittsburgh who was into photography as much I am. He started a website where he featured photos of locations in Pittsburgh. In the beginning, he had some photographers who weren’t reliable so he decided to pick up a camera and capture the content himself. Seeing him do it, inspired me to go into the streets and do the same.
I knew I enjoyed fashion and storytelling, and I wanted to find a way to present that to people, so that’s where Streetsnaps started.
SS: How long have you been doing Streetsnaps?
CC: 3 years
SS: Usually photographers take a while to launch their own gallery show, when did you realize you wanted to do one?
CC: I had been shooting for 8 or 9 months, and my friend suggested that I choose some images from from Instagram and display them in a gallery. I knew I eventually wanted to get into the gallery space, and it had always been a dream, so I tried it without waiting on an art dealer or gallery owner to tell me I could do it.
SS: That’s awesome! What was the theme of the show?
CC: The show was called “Summer in SoHo” and it focused on the people I shot throughout the summer during my time in SoHo. A lot of the people I featured came to the show as well as my friends, it was a real cool experience.
SS: If you had the opportunity to do another show, what would you do differently this time?
CC: I wouldn’t want to rely so heavily on the theme. Last time I was real serious about decorating the space and making it an experience. I still want to do that, but this time I want the work to be stronger where I don’t have to depend on the theatrics as much. I want to strip it down and allow people to really see the images.
SS: When you’re starting a project, I know it can be hard to stay motivated, who were the people that pushed you to keep going?
CC: It was definitely my homie in Pittsburgh, as well as a girl I met from Jersey City. She had a real good eye and she gave me feedback on my photos when I was starting out. She was the one who told me that I should get serious and really pursue photography.
SS: A little off topic but I feel like photographers are a dime a dozen in New York [laughs].
CC: I know!
SS: How do you set yourself apart from being a basic “blogger photographer”?
CC: That’s hard because I think about that all the time. When I’m on the street I see people with their camera’s and I often question “Is this person actually good? Do they know what they’re doing?” but I think it’s about knowing why you enjoy doing it. For some people it’s about being out, for some it’s about connecting with people and others it’s about the art. For me, it’s about all three of those things. I think that’s why I veered away from writing. I didn’t enjoy being inside and writing things out, I get more joy from wandering the streets.
With street photography you have to find a way to tell a story that’s been told before in a unique way.
SS: I’ve always wondered, what is your creative process? Are you like “oh hey girl I like your clothes?” and then snap a photo?
CC: It is pretty similar to that actually [laughs]. I really try not to be creepy or intimidating so I’ll genuinely compliment them and then segue into telling them what I do. Then, if they’re cool with it, I’ll take their photo. After, we’ll exchange Instagram handles and if I really like their photo I’ll post it and tag them. Knowing who to shoot is a gut feeling. If I see something I like, I shoot it.
Starting out one of my good friend’s who works at Complex told me not to edit so much when I’m on the street. Initially, I would see someone and think “oh that’s not going to work” instead of just capturing them and seeing whether it worked or not once I got home. Doing that was one of the most important things I’ve learned so far.
SS: That definitely sounds a lot harder than it seems. I notice every week you shoot new people. Do you ever stay connected to any of those people outside of social media?
CC: There was one girl that I shot and I thought she had a really cool style. When I was starting to shoot for my [gallery] show she was one of the first people I asked to shoot with me. Her youthful spirit was great because she helped me to let loose and make the experience fun.
Another person is my former roommate. I shot her at Made In America, we ended up driving back to New York together and next thing you know she’s helping me put my show together. If you think about it, meeting her a summer ago was a course correction for everything I’ve done up until this point. Which is dope when you think about it.
SS: Crazy how things happen when you least expect it! On this journey, what has been your biggest struggle with Streetsnaps? I follow you and I see you post new content everyday, which is fascinating to me. I feel like I’d run out of things to post.
CC: I think my biggest frustration is wanting more people to connect with the photos. When you create something you want as many people to see it as possible. I think that’s the most frustrating thing, because the desire to be recognized by a larger audience never ends.
SS: In true Saturday School form, I have to ask. What advice would you give high school you?
CC: I would tell high school me to avoid debt. If you really want to work in a creative space you have to know you won’t get paid a lot. If you aren’t smart about your finances there’s a chance you could spend years crawling out of debt. At 18 If you understand to keep your expenses low, you’ll be good in the long run.