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A Passion for Fashion

A professional photographer has documented news events and political campaigns, but she has a secret enthusiasm for the runways of the street

By Iris Schneider

When I travel, people are my nature. What excites me about travel is not the mountains, rivers, plains, trees or sunsets, no matter how majestic. What I love is connecting with people, observing people, documenting people and celebrating the wonderful diversity I see. It helps me appreciate the common threads that unite us.

A photo collage of people wearing fashionable outfits. Next Avenue, fashion, photography
"I prefer the museum of the streets, where people present themselves in their inimical, individual styles, passing by each other unawares but creating a visual feast that catches my eye."  |  Credit: © Iris Schneider Photography

I have always loved fashion. To me, it's not only about the clothes although that is certainly part of it, but it's about the way people wear, manipulate, update, adapt, downgrade and tailor clothes to suit themselves.

Clothing has a history, and I've always loved looking at clothes through that prism.

It's about the way clothing makes you feel, and how that feeling radiates out into the world. Clothing has a history, and I've always loved looking at clothes through that prism. Museums are favorite places to see clothing in the context of history and appreciate the timeline and how fashion has evolved.

Museums of Masters

I have visited Yves St. Laurent's atelier in Paris and was awestruck by his patterns and hat forms. I've visited the Dior Museum and looked at decades of frothy designs that made me drool with envy and long for a dressing room. And I've been to the Anchorage Museum with its cases of ceremonial robes and coats made of fur and guts, enhanced with elaborate stitching and beading and evoking decades of time-honored rituals.

But I prefer the museum of the streets, where people present themselves in their inimitable, individual styles, passing by each other unawares but creating a visual feast that catches my eye. I love to note the sense of individuality and style and capture and salute that insouciance.

Two people wearing dressed in the colors of France's flag. Next Avenue, fashion, photography
Streetstyle in front of the L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris.   |  Credit: © Iris Schneider Photography

Common Threads

For years as a photographer I have been documenting the way people express themselves through their clothing, and how they present themselves when they step out into the world. Seeing the individuality and creativity of humans — no matter their economic status or country of origin — is reassuring.

In such divided times it confirms that people are people, and underneath our divisions we are all the same, living with our joys and challenges and doing the best we can.

Here is a sample of some of my favorite street encounters, each of which lifts my spirits. Every interaction, even if fleeting, leaves an imprint on my memory of a place and embellishes the experience of traveling.

Dressing the Environment

I remember being in Paris during the installation of Christo's Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped. I consider myself a proud groupie of the artist, having seen Surrounded Islands in Florida, Pont Neuf, Wrapped in Paris, The Gates in New York's Central Park and The Umbrellas in California.

A group of people wearing matching blue vests in Paris, France. Next Avenue, fashion, photography
Christo and Jeanne-Claude ambassadors in Paris  |  Credit: © Iris Schneider Photography

The Arc de Triomphe was spectacular not only for its shimmering coat on the Arc, revealing its shape and turning the monument into a piece of sculpture, but because of the obvious pleasure it bought to the hordes who flocked there to see it, touch it and use it as backdrop. The added element was that it was the last Christo installation, conceived before he passed away in 2020 and permitted and ready to go just as Covid closed everything.

Its posthumous installation made the Arc installation even more spectacular, something that you felt viscerally was appreciated by those lucky enough to see it in person. While I loved photographing the art, the bigger thrill was documenting the people who gathered there to celebrate it.


In Morocco, I walked through a market full of women who came down from the Rif mountains, in colorfully mismatched dresses and robes that reminded me of the cornucopia of color on Samburu women in Kenya gathered around their wells and huts. Somehow it all worked perfectly.

In Iceland, I traveled to Reykjavik in March as a birthday gift to myself in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. Fortunately, I was able to see the lights from my airline window seat as we flew toward our destination. But while the Icelandic scenery was thrilling, I loved walking the streets of Reykjavik photographing tourists and locals.

A group of women wearing colorful patterned outfits. Next Avenue, fashion, photography
Streetstyle in Morocco  |  Credit: © Iris Schneider Photography

Iceland Is Cool

There I encountered Jakob, a lanky, hip young man working in a boutique while wearing super wide patched leather trousers; Norwegian high school visitors—Christopher, Juliann and Karl—dressed in replica Viking clothes they meticulously made themselves; and Resia, a young woman from China using the modernist Harpa concert hall as a backdrop for what could have been a photo shoot for her modeling portfolio. I usually stay behind the camera but couldn't refuse her request for a selfie with me — even though I was severely underdressed.

Even my very familiar hometown of New York City gives me opportunities to appreciate individual style.

In Jordan, walking the streets of Amman and visiting Petra, a World Heritage Site, I again was drawn to the people: guides dressed like Johnny Depp/Keith Richards in "Pirates of the Caribbean" were ubiquitous. Leading their donkeys on aged paths, they looked more ready to walk the plank than tour the ruins.

There were young postcard vendors plying their trade. In Amman, I followed the sound of amplified music to find a raucous wedding reception at my hotel that drew me in, and I constantly sought out fashion on the streets and in the shops.

Even my very familiar hometown of New York City gives me opportunities to appreciate individual style. From workers on streetcorners in their aprons and hardhats to models sporting the latest trends, shoppers at Bergdorf's or African queens stopping at the halal truck, the city is a rainbow of humanity.

These random meetings sustain me and allow me to celebrate the brilliance of individuals we otherwise would pass by. I'm grateful for everyone who catches my eye and becomes the subject of these very brief encounters.

Iris Schneider author bio
Iris Schneider has been a journalist and photographer since the 1970s, starting in New York City while teaching at PS 97 on the Lower East Side. She became a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times in 1980. Her work can be seen on her website or on Instagram (@schneidereye). Read More
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