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Tommy-TonPhoto by Justin Chung

Tommy, you are one of the most successful street style bloggers around. How much time do you spend on the Internet yourself?

If I have to look at it, maybe like 8 or 10 hours a day.

Would you say you are addicted to fashion?

The longest I can spend away from fashion is maybe half a day. It’s really just this force in my life where, even when I’m not working, I have such a significant interest where I have to just always immerse myself by reading about it online, just feeding myself with visual imagery. I think Tumblr is my biggest addiction.

Why Tumblr?

It’s kind of like you’re going down different rabbit holes and you just keep getting lost. You keep telling yourself, “Okay, five more pages, ten more pages,” and then you just keep going and going and going. I am also spending too much time shopping online. (Laughs)

As a street style photographer is it important for you to look good too? I feel like a lot of your colleagues stand outside fashion shows just trying to be photographed themselves.

I have zero interest in being photographed! Nobody really does take my picture, so I just don’t care. But if you want to build a brand of your own and make your image a part of who you are, a part of your package, then yes it’s important. I think it’s more important if you are… I don’t want to say necessarily “attractive,” but someone that knows how to wear clothes well.

Like who?

It’s worked in the favor of people like, let’s say Hanneli Mustaparta or Garance Doré. They can be the face of a campaign, but they’ll also shoot the campaign. So it’s important for certain people, but for me it’s more about the work.

Who catches your eye?

I always find the people that don’t want to be photographed are the most desirable. There are more and more people that are just coming to the show to be photographed and not even to see the show. I find them less interesting and those are the people I try to avoid. I’ll secretly take maybe a detail photo because I’m less interested in their character as a whole.

Otherwise you would have the same pictures as all the other photographers.

It’s like pigeons in a way. Whenever the food comes along, everyone goes towards the obvious subjects like Anna Dello Russo or Kate Lanphear, but I really like seeing people that you’ve never seen.

Would you agree that people like Anna Dello Russo have become celebrities because of street style photographers like you?

I don’t feel like any of us are individually responsible for the success of someone like Anna Dello Russo. Everything happened the way it did because of this whole movement that happened in the last 5 years. The change of social media and the interest turned from inside the show to outside the show. I think people just have such a curiosity about fashion that eventually it had to be about people behind the scenes. I think it takes certain people and obviously a character like Anna Dello Russo to branch off from being just an editor to being this massive force.

Is there still a huge gap between bloggers and magazines or is it slowing shifting together? You’ve already shot for a number of big magazines yourself…

I still think there’s quite a gap. I tend to like magazines like Purple, Self Service, or 032c where I feel like the images are a little bit more accessible and relatable. I think magazines – let’s say W or Vogue – really strive to create imagery that’s on another level and impactful and I don’t think that’s necessarily the goal of a blogger or a street style photographer. We’re the voice of the people and we’re just trying to document reality and I think magazines are meant to be more about fantasy. But I still think that there is a divide and there are still many publications that are very hesitant about embracing the blogger and the digital world.

Do magazines look down on bloggers?

Yes, absolutely. You can sense it when you’re going to the shows. You feel like they belittle you in a way. Not intentionally, but you can feel like they’re thinking, “Oh, you’ve cheated the system. I don’t feel like you earned your spot here sitting in the show.” Maybe that’s just me being a bit more insecure. And if I still feel that way in my position I can only imagine what a new blogger feels like coming into this.

Well it’s easy to see why they would be jealous. They’ve worked in the system and are employed by big corporations, and then the bloggers come along and manage to create their own brand and actually have the possibility of making a lot more money than they do.

These are people that came from years and years of working and hours behind the scenes, whereas someone who didn’t do all that was able to get on the front row. I can understand when you look at someone like Bryan Boy. He’s the face of a blog – he doesn’t style editorials, he doesn’t write anything, he’s just being himself and people want to associate their brand with him because of that. And I think that makes people question, “Is this what’s happening to fashion?” They just don’t understand what’s going on.

Bloggers have become an image tool.

It’s just like working with a celebrity; there’s nothing different. You dress someone and you put them on the front row because you want them to represent your brand. It’s very much a wake up call to the industry that things have and will continue to rapidly change. There are definitely a lot of editors that are merging the two together, but I still think there is a great divide. You can definitely sense it when you go into a show.

Does it bother you that you are put into the same box with “bloggers” like Bryan Boy?

It’s hard… It does feel kind of weird having the “blogger” title. I mean, yes I do have a blog where I upload photos, but I don’t actually actively blog where I write things and I form an opinion and I put it out there. I basically just take pictures. There are negative connotations to being a blogger.

Like what?

Regardless of whatever success you’ve had, when you meet someone they are like, “Oh, you’re that blogger!” And I’m like, “Yes, that’s me, the blogger.” It’s a very belittling or demeaning term in some ways. But I think it’s also great that there are people like Bryan who are very comfortable and secure with themselves. He’s like, “Yes, I’m the blogger. And I’m also on America’s Next Top Model. What are you going to say about that?”

Name: Thomas Ton
DOB: 9 March 1984
Place of Birth: Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Photographer

By The Talks