Sharon Socol takes us deep into the fashion scene in her new book, Plus One.
Sharon Socol has been wielding a camera for 35 years, but it wasn’t until she began attending fashion week, alongside her husband, respected retail executive and former CEO of Barney's, that her eye was drawn to this rarified realm. The result of many years of capturing these behind the scenes moments are presented in her first book, “Plus One: An Outsider’s Photographic Journey Into The World Of Fashion.”
We spoke to Socol, who will be signing books at Books & Books this Wednesday, May 8th about how Plus One came to be, editing thousands of images and the transition from outsider to insider.
Plus One is such a great title. How did you come up with it?
Well, initially I had the name “game face” in mind, because everyone sort of plays these parts in fashion. But “Plus One” developed later in the process. It came from a conversation with a friend who sort of said, well, really, that’s what you were. That’s what allowed you into this space. You were with the person invited—not the one invited. It worked. Ninety five percent of the people I shot backstage didn’t know who I was.
Was the book something that you had developing in your mind for years?
I never had a book in mind when I was shooting. I started shooting shortly after Howard became the CEO of Barneys because it was my way of feeling comfortable in a world I didn’t know, not unlike when I travel and I have my camera. It’s what I do, I carry the camera to help me explore where I am.
I realized I can take the camera to the shows and the parties and events to which I was accompanying Howard and it would give me an excuse if I couldn’t talk about a particular subject that someone was talking about, you know, designers, or whatever. With my camera in hand, I could walk away and take pictures. But I never knew what I was going to do with the images. I always gave them as gift to designers as a thank you for letting me shoot backstage.
So then what was the impetus for the book?
The book came about after Howard had retired. I was making the switch from film to digital. I was going through all of my images with my photography teacher and he thought I had some great work. He suggested I do something with it. I always thought I had a book in me, but I thought it would be one I wrote.
The timing just seemed to be right for this book to happen. I had the confidence to create it and after going through thousands of negatives I realized I did have a body of work to pull from to create a book.
And what was that process like editing so many thousands of images?
Hard. I started by working with a few young women who were also photographers. We encouraged each other and helped each other with the projects we working on. We met over wonderful wine and cheese. And they helped me get about 3,000 images down to hundreds.
I went to a workshop in Miami on photo editing with Maggie Stuber. And through that workshop I edited down further to 500 at which point I created a dummy book and showed it around and everyone encouraged me to keep going.
Is there one camera you use?
I’ve been shooting for 35 years. Halfway through I started using the Leica M4. It doesn’t have a meter in it. Nothing automatic at all. Used by many photographic artists and journalists from the 40s till about the 80s. It’s light and convenient. I also used a Leica point and shoot.
And as you went through your images, did you find that you were repeatedly drawn to certain figures or subjects more than others?
No. Actually, while I was shooting, I was most often unaware of who I was taking pictures of. Of course I knew some figures, like Anna Wintour, but many were just moments I captured.
When you had your major book launch, going from outsider to center of attention, how did you feel at that moment?
You know, there was a movie called Harvey, where James Stewart had an imaginary rabbit that he walked around with. And everything happened to Harvey. I have my life, I do what I do. I don’t put makeup on during the day. And sometimes Harvey just has to show up and know what to do. And that’s been a lot of fun. I never dreamed this would happen, but I’m having a great time living this dream.