When people look at street style photography, they’re likely to put more thought into the subject than the photographer who took the pictures. That’s because the casual documentary style of these images inspires a personal connection between the viewer and the subject. It removes the obvious presence behind the lens. You can’t see the photographer’s intentions, but the ability to capture those seemingly candid moments is an art in and of itself.
Which is exactly why we wanted to hear from a street style photographer, to pull them into the frame a bit. As we launch Uproxx Style, we want to understand what draws this special species of photog to their art, what informs each snap, and the stories behind these simple, striking moments. In order to get more insight, we spoke with Sarah Charlie Benjamin, an Israeli fashion photographer who is inspired by street style.
After a childhood punctuated by an uprooting move nearly every six months, it’s no surprise Benjamin was drawn to the static, frozen-in-time quality of photography. But her fast success as a fashion photographer has given her a pretty transient adult life, too. Traveling from Jerusalem to Berlin, to Tokyo, to Los Angeles and New York, Benjamin calls many places home, and because of this, her early portfolio is already rich with diverse subjects and tones.
She draws from a wide-range of influences and she’s happy to use her personal life as inspiration behind the camera too.
“I bring a personal approach to my work,” Benjamin explains, “viewing the world in curated, selected frames that evoke nostalgia and a longing for things that lasted too little. The beautiful side of it is that it makes singular moments last forever — it makes moments trapped in a nameless place and in a nonexistent time zone.”
Benjamin’s photographic education started with the study of classic films. So when she embarked on a career in photography, she was inspired by the same type of storytelling. “[In film] every little thing counts — every object, every corner of a window,” Benjamin tells me. “Every frame is a story — which is how cinema shaped my artistic approach — I need picture to have a story, too.”
Benjamin was happy to learn her craft with staged photos, but it was street style photography that inspired her and helped her to find her artistic voice. This interest in a more documentarian approach led her to photographing her friends — a humble beginning.
“I wanted to capture my friends,” she says, “our candid moments in our bubble lives in Jerusalem.”
As she continued to travel around the world for jobs and started photographing people outside of her social circle, she became interested in other street photography and the styles seen around the world. Benjamin was completely in awe of the style shifts that happened from city to city, and how they reflected the people living in each place.
“The dedication and intensity of trends in different cultures was an interesting education,” Benjamin says. “In Tokyo, I felt like people took street style as an art form — everyone looked so amazing all the time and I felt like, stylistically speaking, people were dressed so creatively and not afraid to go for a look all the way, which inspired me to capture it.”
The more Benjamin travels, the more she learns about herself and her mission as an artist — a concept that might have seemed like more of a prison sentence than a gift to her when she was a child in search of a permanent place. Now, she sees her transient upbringing as a blessing that enables her to be a citizen of the world.
Here are some of Benjamin’s favorite shots (with her own captions) — help us gain insight into her vision and the true meaning of style.
Vanya In Los Angeles
“Vanya is a boy I met at a party. We were walking somewhere in Los Angeles, shooting in direct sunlight, and I really liked the way the sun hit his skin in this coat. I love how relaxed he looks.”
“This is one of my favorite musicians. I was lucky to get to shoot with him after listening to his music for two years. We were hanging out in the courtyard of the apartment building he stayed in…just smoking. I took this shot because his tone and the way he was looking at the camera felt right. To me, it looked like a dream…or a fogged out memory of something. I was trying to think ‘If his music was a photograph, what would that look like?’ The jacket he’s wearing was designed by a friend of mine (Noon Goon) and I thought it was a perfect fit for Ethereal. His necklaces were custom pieces. There was a personal connection to everything he was wearing. It was nice.”
Tristin in New York.
“This is part of a film I’m currently working on with DP John Jenkins. This was a test shot for lighting. I like how it kinda looks like a painting. Tristin was just being himself and wasn’t trying hard to be anything.”
“Feeling unstable in suburban Ventura Country. Styled by Phil Gomez. Damon is one of my best friends. I really feel this boy’s heart. We were talking about Damon being from a small town of 5,000 people. I’m from a place (Jerusalem, Israel) where people don’t have the privilege of feeling boredom. So to me, there’s something attractive about suburban America.”
Karis in LA
“I’m a big fan of Karis’ work. He was just one of the most saturated personalities I’ve ever shot. There was a lot of genuine emotion in his eyes. ”
Jenny in NY
“I just love her face. The sun came out at the perfect moment on a cloudy day. The composition feels right.”
Ben and Yankale.
“Ben and Yankale in Tel Aviv, shooting pre fall on the hottest day of the year. This was my first shoot ever. We were in this totally run-down apartment with a half roof still standing. I got on the roof and just took it. The mood was perfect. I love that they look a lot alike. That was cool.”
Carl in Berlin.
“Carl just looks like a character from another time. I was trying to create a situation where I could capture natural movement. This is a directed situation where I told him to spin. He’s just so beautiful.”
Daniel Hivner in LA
“We were shooting in the hills of Los Angeles and Daniel climbed into a tree. I love this shot because he looks like a Botticelli angel.”
Hart Denton in LA
“Funny story…I actually ended up getting a tattoo of that exact frame from the projection. And actually, I didn’t like it until this moment.”
Meeting Ian for the first time
“I was hanging with Ian in my neighborhood in Chinatown, New York. This shot felt like the last scene of a movie. I was just trying to capture his personality. Ian is the most inspiring person in the world to me.”
“I shot this in my former backyard in Bushwick. I really like the lighting here.”