Street-Fashion Photog's First Book Captures the Spirited Style of NYC

Johnny Cirillo loves making friends with his subjects, too

Bohemian. Cowboy. Goth. Looks so unique they defy categorization. The wealth of sartorial creativity seen on the sidewalks of NYC never ceases to delight photographer Johnny Cirillo, who's chronicled the Big Apple's street-fashion parade for nearly a decade.

Known as the People’s Paparazzi, Cirillo posts his candid images of stylish people on @WatchingNewYork, an Instagram account that reaches 1.3 million followers. Cirillo has a massive audience on TikTok, too. And, now, he's added book author to his impressive resume.

Watching New York: Street Style A to Z features a foreword by model Gigi Hadid and more than 200 pages of Cirillo's iconic images as well as lots of fresh snaps. The volume was spotted in the wild at the famously well-curated MoMA gift shop this past weekend.

Dog lovers will be happy to know the book even devotes space to New York's fashionable pooches.

Here, Cirillo celebrates a person who believed in his talent early on, explains why he not only photographs but also talks to strangers and reveals whether he has any interest in chronicling street fashion in cities other than his native New York.

MUSE: In the introduction to your book, you write about how you were working at Colony Studios, observing other photographers taking photos of the likes of Bella Hadid. Your boss, Gio, encouraged you to go out and pursue your own passion for photography full time. He believed in you. How did you feel about what he did?

Johnny Cirillo: Gio is a very creative, very talented artist himself. And when there's someone else who you look up to in this world who gives you a push, you embrace it. I was happy he canned me.  

Not all street-fashion photographers engage their subjects. But you also talk to them. What do you get from those conversations?

Friendship! That's number one. Human connection is so important to me. Seeing past the clothes and a little deeper means we're starting to trust each other. Once you learn something from someone else you carry it and them with you forever.  

Why is fashion—street fashion in particular—of interest to you?

The simplest answer is that it's just something beautiful that I want to look at later on. It's art to me. 

You capture some of your subjects over and over again in the book. Do you feel a little thrill when you see one of your repeat subjects walking toward you? 

Seeing someone in a great outfit once is a blast. But seeing them a second time makes me think it's not a fluke. I like to think of the page as a TV show, and these are the characters that make it worth watching. 

Do you have any interest in photographing people in other cities, or is there enough going on here in New York to keep you busy forever?

I've been to Paris and loved it. Yes, I would love to explore the rest of the world! One day. 

Christine Champagne
Muse contributor Christine Champagne is a writer based in NYC.

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