Monday, October 11, 2010

Photo blog focuses on the style of older people

From The NY Times Cityroom blog. (Thanks to Elaine for the tip. She noticed the picture at right featured a white cane as part of the 80-year-old woman's style.)

At first glance, Advanced Style looks like an ordinary street-fashion photo blog. The mostly vertical images of pedestrians in dapper suits and fanciful skirts mingle with short descriptions of the clothing and back stories about the wearers.

But the models are unlike those featured in Vogue or on They are older. Much older. “When I’m walking around Manhattan, I’m always scanning for gray hair,” said Ari Seth Cohen, 29, whose respect and admiration for the confident fashions of those more than twice his age led him to start posting photos of stylish older people in August 2008.

Sincerity is the dominant mood on the site, a sharp contrast to the withering cattiness and one-upmanship that characterizes much fashion writing.

“Whereas canes have oftentimes been regarded as unfashionable and made to fade into the background,” Mr. Cohen wrote in June, many “use theirs to enhance their sense of independence and look all the more stylish and graceful.” The blog, which gets 2,000 to 3,000 hits a day, brings in “a few hundred dollars a month” in Google ads, Mr. Cohen said. While he shoots most of the photos, the blog also showcases a small group of like-minded contributors, including his father, Jack, 61, and Maayan Zilberman, 31, a lingerie designer. Debra Rapoport, 65, an artist, provides an older person’s perspective on style and aging in a separate section of the site.

Many posts focus on the stories behind the clothing, like a recent musing focused on two sisters in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, that was touched off by a unique and brightly patterned blazer.

Mr. Cohen, a 2004 graduate of the University of Washington with a major in art history, has worked in a gallery, as a drug and alcohol counselor and in the gift shop of the New Museum. He began snapping photos for the blog with a Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot camera, though he has since graduated to a more professional Canon Rebel digital single-lens reflex. He quit the New Museum — where his bosses let him take pictures of “amazing ladies” who lingered after seeing the exhibitions — in July. He recently began writing for AARP magazine.

Mr. Cohen, who grew up in San Diego and moved to New York from Seattle two years ago, traces his interest in older people’s clothes to the time he spent as a child with his grandmother, rummaging through her things and cultivating, almost by accident, a vintage aesthetic. She was not interested in style in the same was as the women featured on the blog, he said, “but she treated me like an adult,” and that made a profound impression.

The blog is a way of returning the favor, by treating older people as legitimate sources of sartorial inspiration. Many of the subjects are surprised at his interest, Mr. Cohen said. “They ask: ‘Why do you want my photo?’ ” he said.

As the site has attracted attention, Mr. Cohen has resisted altering its look or feel, but has shifted its focus somewhat. “It’s not only about fashion,” he said. “It’s more about people’s vitality and personal style.”