Dustin Pittman began photographing the downtown New York fashion collective Hood by Air a year after they burst on the scene, sharpening the cutting edge, bringing together the realms of music, art, and style into a raw blend of city chic. Headed by Shayne Oliver, Hood by Air has become the one to watch, as everyone from the street to the front row are keeping an eye on the trends they set and the looks they create. And all of this is captured through Pittman’s lens.
As Pittman observes, “As a photographer I am always looking to fill my frame and capture new and fresh thoughts and concepts from my subjects. It doesn’t matter if I stood in the middle of the dance floor at Studio 54, or Paradise Garage in 1978 or backstage shooting fashion in 1976 or working with International designers in their atelier or the Boom Boom Room at the Standard in 2010. I’m always searching, looking, always ready, on guard to capture the moment. I have been photographing people for over 40 years. In the studio. On the streets. Way Uptown. Way Downtown. New York, Paris, London, Milan, Tokyo, Europe, India, Middle East, the entire World. Day for Night. Night for Day.
“My style of photographing has always been the ‘Polaroid School of Photography’’. Spontaneity. I have always been in the cinema-verite mode. What does that mean. I leave people alone. I let them ‘be’. I let them interact . I want them to show me their beautiful hearts and souls: their Spirits. I love their life. Past and Present. I don’t want to destroy that precious ‘moment’. I let them perform. I got that from Andy Warhol.
“I love the way people look. It is their individual ‘look’ and they ‘own it.’ They are influenced by their history, their customs, their beliefs. You can’t take that away from them. They are who they are. The way they “carry” themselves. Their body language. The way they stand. Their heads, necks, arms, backs, shoulders, torsos, legs, feet and, of course, their faces and expressions. I love people for that.
“And I find it all in Hood by Air. I love everything they stand for, the whole 360 degrees: their beliefs, spirit, culture, the whole tribe, it’s just so much wonderful positive diversity in all shapes and on all levels. I feel like I’m part of the family. Hood by Air is more than sewing, designing, showing on the runway. There are all of these elements are that are underneath the seams. It’s a 24-hour, 7-day lifestyle. It’s not something where they go off to work; this is in their blood.
“A lot of people have their own thing going on and they come together to make Hood by Air. They are a community of real artists. They gravitate, just being one of many, that is a universal thing. It’s almost like the 1970s—but it’s today. That feeling of competitiveness is not part of Hood by Air. Their thinking is community, transparency, integrated; they help and support each other on different levels: fashion, design, music, painting, new and old technology combined.
“In the 70s, you had those phrases that signified where the line was drawn. You weren’t supposed to ‘sell out’ and work for ‘The Man’’ or join ‘The Establishment’ and ‘go corporate.’ Hood by Air is a business but they operate differently. They operate on the Law of Attraction, not promotion. In the 70s, it wasn’t all about the money and having followers. It was brought down to the very basic formula of giving it away to keep it. Everyone helped and supported everyone else. The walls of competitveness weren’t up then. To share thoughts and ideals is incredible.
“In the 80s and 90s, you saw things skyrocketing. It’s now so difficult to survive in New York, it’s hard to find the tribes that are still operating on that level. It’s not like designers that are hungry, chomping at the bit. Hood by Air has a whole different mentality. They have magic and energy. I feel that they put it out into the Universe and the Universe gives it back to them They let it go and by giving out that energy, it attracts people from all different fields to them, to explore, to create, to develop. It’s wonderful. Deep down, people really miss that. There’s a lot of people from the 70s and 80s that are calling. History doesn’t go away. It’s in your blood. It’s in your genes. You can’t stop truth.”