A camera clicks, followed by another and another until there’s a cacophony of camera shutters as hundreds of photographers clamber to capture guests stepping out of a runway show at Paris Fashion Week. It’s chaotic and frenzied but it’s a world that Kiwi photographer Dan Roberts (founder of Threadslike) is well accustomed to.
Roberts has been photographing stylish people during international fashion week events for the past four years and says the fashion landscape has changed over that time.
“Now it’s like a circus and it’s worse than it’s ever been. There are a lot of people turning up to shows to be photographed and not necessarily going to shows...it’s become monetized in a large way.”
The Melbourne-based photographer travels to the world’s fashion capitals every year - Paris, Milan, New York and London - and says not getting caught up in the chaos and what others are doing is key to getting great shots.
Roberts grew up in Auckland’s Devonport with a love of skateboarding and surfing. Back then he wasn’t very interested in fashion and a role in the industry never crossed his mind. That changed the day Roberts picked up a camera and today he’s a photographer who works alongside the best in the fashion industry.
Outside of the international fashion week schedule you’ll find him shooting editorials for fashion publications and his work has been featured in Paris and US Vogue and US Elle. He was recently flown to New York to shoot The Met Gala for American Vogue, which he says was a big achievement.
“It was amazing that they considered me in the first place and I work for them quite often ... as soon as you’re shooting for one of those publications, everyone is looking at your work and you’ve got huge exposure,” he says.
Roberts’ aesthetic is full of texture and movement. It’s beautifully candid with a depth of expression, so it’s no surprise that it quickly caught the attention of industry insiders. But his lens isn’t always focused on the likes of editors, stylists and influencers.
“I’m trying to interpret what’s happening in the industry at any given time [both] on and off the runway and I try and capture that with what people are wearing on the street.”
He says he’s drawn to people who aren’t necessarily dressed up for the fashion week events but those who are wearing what they’d wear on any given day of the week. It’s an essential point of difference in an industry where he’s competing for jobs with top ranking photographers - many of whom are now good friends, including renowned photographers Tommy Ton and Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) - the founding fathers of western street style photography.
“Tommy has really become like a mentor to me. I met him in Sydney four-and-a-half years ago and he’d been the most influential to me...he’s shown me a lot,” says Roberts.
Roberts is low key and insists that he’s most comfortable staying behind the scenes. He wants to let his work speak for itself, rather than being in the spotlight.
“My aesthetic is very much an observation. I’m a Kiwi and we are quite reserved,” he says.
Roberts had next to no photography experience prior to setting his sights on street style photography. But his eye for detail and an acute ability to capture a sense of story in his images has been the key to making a giant leap to the top of the fashion heap.
“My first photos were out of focus and going up to a stranger and asking if I could take their photo was the most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever done, but after I got over that everything else just felt a little bit easier.”
Asked whether this international jet-setting life is what he imagined for himself Roberts laughs and is quick to respond with a resounding ‘No’.
“When I first started doing this I didn’t believe it would go to where it has and four years later it’s a career now [and] sometimes I do have that ‘wow’ moment.”