As well known as the likes of André Leon Talley, Anna Wintour, and Diane von Furstenberg are behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week, so is the man photographing them all (with a droll wit), Landon Nordeman. He has been pegged as the Bill Cunningham of the fashion world, even more so since his art book, Out of Fashion—filled with saturated shots of stone-faced models waiting in line to strut the catwalk, paparazzi straining to photograph the models, and the well-heeled crowds that show up to watch the whole circus—was published last fall. It usually takes photographers several years to climb to the peak Nordeman has reached, but he only started in the fashion industry in 2013 when New York magazine asked him to cover NYFW. A versatile artist, he has photographed everything from a dog show to campaign headquarters to weddings.
We got a snapshot of Nordeman’s career and creative process, and even found out where you’d find him on his perfect day with his wife and kids.
What Should We Do?!: How did you get into photography? What was your first project?
Landon Nordeman: My first photography class was at age 20 at the University of California, Berkeley summer school. I was smitten. I crave pictures—looking at them or taking them. I’ve done so many projects, but the Voyage on the Staten Island Ferry project was significant, as was Canine Kingdom.
WSWD: What is your favorite image in your book, and why?
Nordeman: I can’t pick a favorite. Looking at a photo book should be an intimate experience. I recommend looking at all of the images in sequence. See how it makes you feel. If you feel something—anything—then you’ve appreciated my point of view. That’s all I can ask for.
WSWD: Who are your favorite fashion photographers?
Nordeman: There are way too many photographers whom I love, but my two absolute favorites are Garry Winogrand and Guy Bourdin. Spend some time with their work, and I hope you’ll be moved. If not, then spend some more time.
WSWD: What do you see for the future of digital photography?
Nordeman: It’s only getting better. Cameras keep getting lighter and smaller. I am waiting for the day when you can blink your eye and take the picture you see in front of you.
WSWD: As a native New Yorker, what is your favorite spot in town to photograph?
Nordeman: Midtown. Times Square. The Staten Island Ferry. Rockaway Beach. Anywhere people are coming and going is a good place to take pictures.
WSWD: Where do you go for inspiration?
Nordeman: Walking the streets inspires me. Also, I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Temple of Dendur and the Petrie Court get me every time. Also, seeing Juan de Pareja by Velázquez face-to-face is a stunning experience. If you never have, try it.
WSWD: If we were to plan the perfect day for you, what would it include?
Nordeman: The perfect day would start with a rooftop yoga class. I don’t know of one, but if you find the rooftop and pay the instructor, I’ll be there. Next would be breakfast at Russ & Daughters. If you have never tasted its smoked salmon and bagels, then you have never, ever truly lived; don’t forget the capers and onions and lemon. Next, a Citi Bike ride up to the Museum of Modern Art for some modern art inspiration. Looking at art in person—a Robert Motherwell painting, a Matisse cutout, or a Picasso—is good for the brain and the soul. It energizes you and reminds you that life is amazing and should never be taken for granted. If they can do it, you can do it! Whatever it is you want to do, that is. Also, looking intently can make you hungry, and the café at MoMA is quite good.
I do love getting around the city on a Citi Bike, by the way. Since the program started in 2013, I have completed more than 500 rides in 109 hours, covered 813 miles, and burned 35,000 calories. Try it. Wear your own helmet. Use the bike lane.
After a few hours of inspiration, I’d hit the pavement of midtown for some street photography all afternoon. Garry Winogrand, Lee Freidlander, Joel Meyerowitz: All of them made amazing photographs in midtown. Let’s try to make some of our own. Give yourself the afternoon. Turn your phone off. Stay patient. Be curious. Watch life on the street. Pay attention to color.
As 5 o’clock nears, it’s time to head back downtown to the West Village for a Manhattan and some small plates (anchovies and butter, prosciutto) at Buvette, where we can recall the amazing things and people we saw today.
Then take a stroll across 10th Street to the East Village, grab a seat at the bar at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, and order whatever is new on the menu. Chat with the bartender, learn about a new wine, eat something you’ve never had before, and pretty soon you’ll be ready to head home for the night.
WSWD: What do you love most about living in NYC?
Nordeman: I love the city because it’s teeming with life and energy and “yes.” I love to share that raw, sweaty, alive diversity of experience, and I also love to photograph it. Also, strolling with my wife after dinner is something I love; it reminds me how romantic NYC can be.
WSWD: What are your three wishes for our city?
Nordeman: First, don’t be a litterbug. Second, if you’re driving a car, please slow down. And third, remember what Diane Arbus said: “One of the risks of appearing in public is the likelihood of being photographed.”
Landon Nordeman’s Faves…in a NY Minute
The one I am walking on right now. Photographs exist everywhere. The next one is coming around the corner, in fact.
Everyman Espresso’s cortado (iced in the summer) on East 13th Street.
Slice of pizza?
The best slice is the closest slice. However, I do remember some particularly delicious slices from Ben’s on Spring Street and Joe’s on Carmine Street. I always fold it—apparently, that’s a New York thing—but to me it’s the most enjoyable way to eat a slice of pizza.
Favorite thing to do with kids?
Ride the carousel at Pier 62. They love it, and I feel like a kid again when I go with them. It’s timeless.
Landon Nordeman’s perfect day—a stroll through the Met, smoked salmon and bagels at Russ and Daughters, a classic Manhattan at Buvette—is quintessentially New York. Let us arrange a classic time for you, as well.