MEET ADAM KATZ SINDING
Qompendium talks with photographer Adam Katz Sinding and digs into why he’s so into documenting genuine, everyday interactions at fashion events around the globe. We also find out about his new brand identity, sweet spots around Denmark, his Boy Scout days, #NoFreePhotos movement and much much more.
Everywhere on planet Earth where there’s a fashion show, photographer Adam Katz Sinding, formerly known as Le 21ème, is bound to be there. Capturing models, celebs, cool cats, socialites, designers and fashion show groupies in their natural element since 2003, Adam has been a true innovator in the realm of street-style fashion photography.
Adam has an uncanny eye for composition and a sense for photographing a scene with just the right person, the right accoutrements and the right atmosphere. It might all seem arbitrary for the fashion hungry bloggers of the twentieth century, but is a far cry from it.
His approach veers towards documenting the style-setters’ genuine everyday interactions, turning a blind eye to the overly hyped up trend of “being seen and snapped” at fashion shows for a second of fame on social media.
Adam likes to capture natural moments when fashion week goers let their guard down and are unaware that they’re being photographed. It’s an oxymoron in a way because most everyone is in attendance to be noticed and photographed.
The in-betweens that he likes to capture are the split seconds when someone lets a smile off their face after crossing the street 6 times and counting as part of a staged pose. Or someone running into a show uber fashionably late in complete hecticness and disarray. He’s also more interested in the true consumers of the Chanel brand at shows – that is the ladies who don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers and are “too old” to be photographed.
According to Adam, clothing is just a third element and he is not interested in the looks so much as the rawness and realness of each moment. Shameless promotion and product placement can be misleading, or “selling your soul” as Adam describes it. With 500+ photographers at each show, Adam doesn’t feel the desire to be the 501st with the same output or to create photography diarrhoea, as he puts it.
Fashion show attendees years ago were front stage and center at catwalks for business and art – to network, buy and report on the latest collections. However, the industry has metamorphosed with the zeitgeist of the time and fashion designers have now begun to dress influencers in their latest collections knowing they’d be perpetuated to fandom by street-style photographers.
This has turned social media influencers into socialites-cum-celebrities instead of ordinary fashion week attendees. Images turned out from fashion events have become part and parcel to the marketing strategies and e-commerce efforts of many designers and retailers. Adam feels this has become a stab at artistic ingenuity, which is why he is dead set on capturing fashion aficionados in acts of the mundane and authentic.
To him, the fashion industry often translates into a form of masochism and it’s a love/hate relationship for him. He has grown increasingly disillusioned with it, although he finds it visually stimulating.
The way he sees it, the fashion industry is superficial for the most part, with people displaying a very carefully curated facade of who they are. There’s a dark side to it all and Adam calls bullshit a lot – a lot lot. On the flip side, though, he tries to be himself as much as possible, which has pissed off a lot of people in the process.
Besides photographing the goings and happenings at fashion shows around the globe, Adam has also jumped ships into the travel photography scene and supplements his time by shooting successful fashion campaigns, editorials, giving lectures and embarking in cross-country cycling trips.
Adam is most comfortable in nature, camping and on his bike. He has mapped out routes in and around Denmark, shooting and biking in the country, as well as from Denmark to Berlin and Hamburg. No matter what, he wants to keep his integrity and would love to partner with cycling and GPS companies down the line.
Fashion confirms jobs at the last minute or after the last minute. I am a planner, and this does not fit with my personality type!
His current roster of clients is a knockout one, with the likes of Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens, Stine Goya, Chloé, Fendi, Wood Wood, Givenchy, Mykita, Tom Ford, Vogue, L’Officiel, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar and countless others.
Adam shot the Tom Ford Fall 2020 advertising campaign during the designer’s Fall/Winter 2020/2021 runway show in Los Angeles. Stars of the campaign included models Gigi Hadid, Hannah Motler, Anna Herrera, Elias de Poot, Erik van Gils, Gena Malinin, Henry Kitcher, Joel Dent, Malick Bodian, Marjan Jonkman, Mayowa Nicholas, Niks Gerbasevskis, Nina Marker, and Tae Min Park.
In one hefty campaign shoot for the Spanish label Aristocrazy, Adam jumped across eight different locations with a team of fifty people all in the course of one day.
Adam has also photographed backstage for Louis Vuitton. In an interview with Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, Abloh says to Adam, “Your photography allows me to see what’s going on around me and in the fashion industry.” And adds, “These clothes will be sold, thrown away or stored, but these images last.”
With Covid-19 in full force in 2020, Adam turned into an absentee photographer of sorts and needed to reinvent himself in 2021 with the pandemic still in high gear, financial insecurity, the changing climate and all-around limitations. In the break from a high-paced lifestyle, Adam has found that it has levelled things out for him and he is surprisingly his happiest despite all the uncertainty.
Notwithstanding the nosedive in fashion show attendance, Adam didn’t let up speed in 2020 and recently had an entirely new brand identity creative directed by founder and editor-in-chief of Qompendium, Kimberly Lloyd, who reached out to typography expert and Pentagram partner Sascha Lobe to design the identity encompassing the wordmarque, signet, typography suite and website relaunch.
“I’ve long been an admirer of Adam’s observant eye for years. When it comes to experiencing a fashion show en voyeur, en passant, he really sets the benchmark and the time has come to elevate his artistic foundations even further,” says Kimberly Lloyd.
The brand identity encompasses a grotesque typeface to pinpoint the fashion zeitgeist of the decade and a newly designed website, which will equip Adam with a digital platform to transcend street-style photography into many of his extensions – from travel to prints and his own fashion ventures.
The launch campaign for the Adam Katz Sinding digital platform visualizes how Adam captures singular moments of an entire scene – merging the fashion brand with the model and environment. Each fashion brand’s glyphs combines to create the wordmarque, which is animated through an atmospheric backdrop and cinematic composition. A ticking timer and camera shutter can be audibly heard, capturing these fleeting yet grand capsules in time.
Check entire visual identity on PENTAGRAM.COM
“Creating a visual identity for someone like Adam with a very well-honed eye for capturing exceptional images with distinct compositions and context almost seems antithetical but it was a gratifying praxis and we’re pleased with the outcome,” says Sascha Lobe.
The website is succinctly sectioned off into Fashion, Portfolio and Travel and features prominently in stark black with white typography, transforming his online portal from low key to high key. The majority of the website is punctuated by full-bleed images to capture his work in all its grandeur and the archive is arranged in a grid layout for quick searches and intelligent filtering. Check it out HERE.
Adam published his first book, “This Is Not A F*cking Street Style Book,” in February of 2018. The monograph is a collection of his work, showcasing major fashion events, top brands and tastemakers through his own lens.
In June of 2019, Adam published his second book, “Live From F•cking Everywhere,” which chronicles his travels, setting aside fashion and focusing on the wonders our world has to offer. It is a must-have book for all those passionate about travel photography and architecture.
Adam has segwayed into the podcast world, with his first recording debuting on 3 May, 2021. “So What Else Do You Want To Talk About?” is a platform for pigeon-holed people to share their other stories and thoughts on the world. As Adam sees it, we are all branded by “what we do” and, frankly, that sucks. His aim is to bring in the other side of the coin, take a step beyond the superficial titles we are labeled with and have a deeper look beneath it all.
The title of the podcast is inspired by Adam’s 2-meter tall lanky, hilarious and slightly socially awkward cousin James. In the first episode, Adam speaks with Danish fashion editor FREDERIK LENTZ ANDERSEN about work, extra-curriculars, life and their love/hate relationship with the fashion industry.
Listen on SPOTIFY.
“Your photography allows me to see what’s going on around me and in the fashion industry” says Virgil Abloh.
Kimberly Lloyd: New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, Berlin Fashion Week, Copenhagen Fashion Week, Stockholm Fashion Week, Tbilisi Fashion Week .. and we’ve only gotten started from over 100 from around the world, how many fashion shoots do you take part in in a good year?
Adam: Oh man, well this hasn’t been a good year, now, has it?! Normally, I would visit about 15 to 20 cities two times a year for Fashion Week and shoot every day I’m there. Then there are commercial jobs and editorials. Let me do the math…if we count Fashion Week days as “shoots,” then let’s say 250? If we don’t, then let’s say…40?
Kimberly Lloyd: When we originally connected way back when before the pandemic hit, you were booked solid from January till after March. Your schedule is grueling, to say the least, with days becoming night and nights becoming day. What is the hardest moment in this task?
Adam: The hardest part of my line of work is the planning and logistics. As I write this, I am on hold with Delta trying to change a flight from Copenhagen to Seattle, which I already changed from Amsterdam to Seattle and now am changing from Paris to Los Angeles. Fashion confirms jobs at the last minute or after the last minute. I am a planner, and this does not fit with my personality type!
Kimberly Lloyd: But there’s got to be something that makes you wake up, wash, rinse and repeat. What is the sweetest moment?
Adam: Arriving in Paris each season or arriving home in Copenhagen or TACOMA, Washington (where I grew up). Paris is the last FW on the schedule each season, so when the wheels touch the tarmac you know it’s allllllllllll-most over. I love my work, but it’s a lot.
Kimberly Lloyd: How have you dealt with the trend of fashion houses decking out influencers in their designs knowing they’re going to be snapped up by street style photographers?
Adam: I do not take very kindly to this. I see through the transparency of it all and, frankly, it pisses me off. I think that the brands view the photographers as “idiots” and think we will just create free content for them. Myself and my peers began a movement a few years ago to battle this phenomenon called #NoFreePhotos. If a brand dresses an influencer and then feeds them to the dogs (the photographers) we want to be taken into that equation and considered a part of the project.
Kimberly Lloyd: When you’re on the street with at least 10 other photographers looking to capture that one amazing shot, what does friendship mean amongst photographers waiting outside to document the right fashion influencer?
Adam: Hmmmm, I don’t quite know how to answer this. I try to focus on the whole atmosphere and often task my peers with doing the same. Focusing solely on “influencers” with big followings is counterproductive to the growth of our aspect of the industry.
This is my opinion and my true answer would be too long and too dark. But I hold myself to a certain level, and I suppose I hope that my peers/friends would do the same. My job, as I see it, is to document the moment and show people what fashion week feels like. It’s not just showing people in Ohio some influencer with 2 million followers who they already see every day in their feed.
My job, as I see it, is to document the moment and show people what fashion week feels like. It’s not just showing people in Ohio some influencer with 2 million followers who they already see every day in their feed.
Kimberly: This is exactly what I find fascinating about your work. Every picture teleports me into the scene. I am there, I can feel it. How do you do that?
Adam: Not sure how to answer that. I mean in simple terms, I point the camera where I feel appropriate and I press a button. But in reality, I’m not sure how to put it into words. I’m under the egoistic impression that I might be more aware of my surroundings than your average Joe.
Maybe I’m full of shit, but I’m always listening and watching. I hear the cadence of people walking from behind me and listen for someone calling for the person I’m hoping to photograph, anticipating a reaction to that beckon. I pay attention to the wind, to the whole scene. I really sound like I’m full of shit, but I’m a Boy Scout. No really, I’m a Boy Scout, and the motto of the Boy Scouts is “Be Prepared” and I kinda live by that. I use this in my photography. I try to anticipate the outcome of the photo. I plan for the worst and hope for the best. And I try to, again, show people what it feels like to be there, not just what it “looks” like.
Kimberly: And then you create the uniform color grading throughout all your work …
Adam: Yes, it’s a preset I developed some years ago based on a basic-ass VSCO preset. Myself and my former retouchers tweaked it to be how we liked it. It’s ever-evolving.
Kimberly: When it comes to how the pandemic was handled in Sweden, it’s been a mixed basket of feelings, especially with the herd immunity approach and Anders Tegnell’s laissez faire approach. You were recently at Stockholm Fashion Week, what’s the fashion scene been like during Covid?
Adam: I live in Denmark and took the train to Stockholm. Malmö is just a few stops away over the Øresund Bridge and when I transferred at Malmö Central, it was like I was in another world. I got a coffee and the barista asked if I’d like it “for here or to take away,” and I realized I hadn’t heard those words in more than a full calendar year. No one wore masks and people gawked at me for wearing mine. It was weird and it made me think about how long we (the population of the world) will take to bounce back from the life we are living in right now. That being said, SFW was fine. It was a digital fashion week, so I was relegated to walking the streets and finding “real people” in town. It was nice to go back to the way I used to shoot back in 2007 to 2010 before the “street style” trend blew up.
Kimberly: Global GDP was estimated to be circa USD 87.55 trillion in 2019. With the 4.5 percent drop in economic growth, this has amounted to almost USD 3.94 trillion in lost economic output. Has the pandemic affected how you see your work into the future?
Adam: Of course, as with anyone. I mean my aspect of the industry relies on travel and human interaction. I honestly have no idea. I am naively hoping it will all come back to how it was, but just with less people. Let me just have that dream, thanks!
Kimberly: From leveling out to slowing down, fury, loneliness and bliss, 2020 going into 2021 has been a whirlwind for everyone. What has the operative word been for you in 2020?
Adam: Routine. I have finally started to live a “normal” life. Home all the time. Buying groceries. Sleeping in. Running, cycling, jumping in the sea. It’s been awesome.
Kimberly: You travel to 15 to 20 cities around the world per year and there are 195 countries on planet Earth to choose from. Why do you live in Denmark?
Adam: It’s just the best place in the world. We go by bike everywhere. People are kind and healthy. The infrastructure is immaculate. The social system works. It’s simply the best place I’ve ever been.
Kimberly: So you are more European than American? I believe in Mondialism. Would you agree to giving away your passport in exchange for one that says “World Citizen?”
Adam: I mean, I wish…but no. I’m still very American, but I prefer northern European life. The weather in Copenhagen is just like where I grew up, so it’s basically the same feeling just better. But there are no mountains here. Norway isn’t that far though! World Citizen, I dunno. I would be very satisfied with my USA passport and the compliment of a Danish one, one day. That seems like it would suffice.
Kimberly: We’re still trapped indoors and want to live vicariously through you. What are your favorite spots around Copenhagen?
Adam: Oh man, well everything is closed, so my apartment! Otherwise, I like to get coffee at Darcy’s or Met. I like to get a bun with cheese at Hart. I like to eat dinner at home, or hmmmm…if I could eat anywhere in Copenhagen tomorrow? I’d get dinner at…nope it’s too hard.
Pizza at Corsa. Mexican at La Neta/Sanchez/Mæxico, Gyro at Torvets Kebab or Ethiopian at Zula. I love going up to my bike shop at Cranks and Coffee in Klamenborg. Louisiana is the best museum in the world. Shopping at Storm, Norse and Packyard.
Swimming in the sea at Belleview Strand of La Banchina. Oh wait, that’s my answer! My dinner would be at La Banchina in the sun on the dock with wine and a jump in the water.
I try to, again, show people what it feels like to be there, not just what it “looks” like.
Kimberly: You got into street style photography before it was even a thing – when it was relegated to fashion editors, buyers and celebrities. I think it’s safe to say that you’re a full-blown pioneer. So is street style photography here to stay? How would you like to see it evolve?
Adam: It is. Maybe not in its former iteration, but yes it is. It will likely go back to a more normal form after Covid has passed. But, regardless, people will always be intrigued by the way others dress.
Kimberly: You’ve been dipping into travel photography, which destinations are coming up next?
Adam: Definitely not “dipping” into it. This is where I started and shooting people evolved from this! If I could go anywhere in the world, I’d visit Ethiopia, South Africa, Faroe Islands, Micronesia and Alaska. On my list for now will be LA, Tacoma/Seattle, Copenhagen, BORNHOLM and maybe a job in Kazakhstan.
Kimberly: So happy we got this right! Ok so what happened exactly? You passed by a show one day and captured images of fashionistas?
Adam: I took a photo of my buddy Karl for a light test in 2007 or so and it just changed my perspective on the whole thing. I started to take photos of people on the street in Seattle in 2007 after that. It wasn’t until 2011 that I attended my first FW in NYC.
Kimberly: We want the nitty gritty from the best of the best. Which gear makes the rounds in your photography arsenal?
Adam: I recently started shooting mirrorless, so I’m using the Nikon Z7 II. When I’m out riding my bicycle, I use a very tiny Sony RX100 VII. Great cameras.
Kimberly: You have surely done a “What’s in my bag series,” but now seriously, which brand would you like to be an ambassador for?
Adam: Oh…um…hope this will open some doors! Kidding. I don’t want to be an ambassador for anyone. I want to buy things I would buy honestly. If I become close with that brand and am gifted something or given a discount that’s always great. But I don’t want to use products I wouldn’t normally use. My favorite brands: Nikon, BYBORRE, Acronym, Arcteryx, Haoma, Porter Yoshida, ASICS and Stay Made.
For my home it’s Frama, Aesop and Vitra. For athletics its ASICS again, Pas Normal Studios, Sram, Enve Composites, Ceramic Speed, Chris King, Omnium, ATMPT, Distance Athletics and Teva.
Kimberly: Some business moguls have been known to flat out pass out due to burning the candles on both ends, getting a major wakeup call in the process, literally, much as Arianna Huffington did. How do you keep your energy levels up during travels and beat jet lag?
Adam: Momentum. Without that I just crash. If you keep the ball rolling, you don’t get tired. Treat it like a great party that just happens to last for 30+ days. Berlin vibes.
Kimberly: HAHA! True…so no drugs apart from body-made endorphins?
Adam: No no. Just beer, wine, running and bikes.
Kimberly: What about diet, health and supplements? I remember you were on Snapchat showing your smoothies.
Smoothies? Really?! I don’t recall that! But I for sure can teach you how to put vegan butter on rye bread!! I like salads. I like sandwiches. I like pizza. I like everything. I don’t eat meat. I do eat fish. I eat eggs occasionally.
Kimberly: Let’s dig into more health goodies. Can you tell us about the past life regression hypnosis you did in Paris?
Adam: There is no way I can write it out. It must be told in spoken words. It was WILD. I have never experienced anything like that, and I highly recommend it to everyone. I could feel the color pink as a flavor I could taste in my actual physical heart. I really can’t explain it better than that.
Kimberly: Wow. I see this screams for a podcast or a Clubhouse session.
Kimberly: Wishlists, bucket lists, what-ifs, when I’s. What is a dream project you’ve yet to realize?
Adam: Nothing really work-related, just personal stuff. I’d like to ride my bicycle across America a few times. I’d like to ride my bicycle around Iceland and Australia. I’d like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and Annapurna trail. I’d like to camp in the Enchantment Lakes. Hike the Grand Canyon. Live for a month in Patagonia. Visit Antarctica and FRANZ JOSEF LAND. I’d love to see everything there is to see, basically.
Kimberly: This insatiable hunger for seeing… why do you think you enjoy it so much? By the way, it’s the same for me.
Adam: I have a theory that people who grow up in cities by the water are raised to be more curious. If you grow up in Kansas and there is just corn for 100 miles in all directions, you assume that there is corn for 10000 miles in all directions. If you grow up by water, you can see the horizon and see where the water “ends.” I think that phenomenon makes you say “what’s over there?” And that makes me want to find out what’s over there!
Kimberly: Do you have quiet moments – to read a book, watch a movie, work on a photo?
Adam: I do Danish on Duolingo. I have a hard time reading, but I try. My “quiet moments” are used for sleeping and exercising. I jump in the sea in Copenhagen to have an out of body experience.
Kimberly: Living a nomadic life is perhaps something that many secretly not so secretly strive towards, although we all know that living out of a suitcase day in and day out is no easy feat. What is the best part of what you do?
Adam: The travel. But that also destroys any hopes for a domestic life.
Kimberly: Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Virgil Abloh, Drake.. Clubhouse has become the best way to eavesdrop on conversations from all walks of lifes in a live podcast format. What do you think about Clubhouse?
Adam: I’ve tried it once. It was fun, but it’s not for me. But I’ll try anything twice!
Kimberly: We are planning to do that and would love to chat with you. You definitely have a lot to tell!
Adam: I’m up for it! Let’s go!
For a little big random fact of the day: phonetically speaking, AKS means picture in Persian. Now how about that?
ع ك س (a’-k-s)
From Arabic عَكْس (ʿaks)
From Persian عکس, from Arabic عكس
Classical Persian IPA: /aks/
Dari IPA: /aks/
Iranian Persian IPA: /æks/
Tajik IPA: /aks/
عکس (‘aks) m (Hindi spelling अक्स)
to reflect, to mirror
Enjoy all brands and companies Adam likes:
Cranks and Coffee
Pas Normal Studios