For years I’ve watched the uber-stylish Tamu McPherson crouch in the middle of the street to get the perfect shot of her subject. Her subject, usually one of the most interestingly dressed fashion show attendee at one of the fashion weeks around the world. In the past few years fashion has become very curious about the woman behind the camera, and lucky for us, McPherson has embraced this new identity as influencer, consultant, and occasional designer. I met the Milan-based photographer over the summer, and we chatted about the upcoming fashion month, our favorite designers, and the state of fashion in general. The woman across from me, (who is as stunning as you imagine her to be), was insightful and smart, charming and funny, and completely genuine. It came as no surprise that everyone loves Tamu! She was gracious when sharing her experiences and optimistic when speaking about her future. The fashion industry is full of compelling and engaging personalities, but none as authentic as McPherson.
You’re one of the OG street style photographers – how fun were those early days shooting people on the street?
The pace was different, there were a dozen photographers at most. We worked hard but had time to chat with the editors and stylists that we photographed and also amongst ourselves. Great friendships were born and continue today.
What inspired you to start shooting at the shows? Were people receptive to having their photos taken in this way at that time?
Photographers like Scott Shulman, Tommy Ton and Phil Oh were my initial inspiration for shooting at the shows. At first many of my subjects were confused about why I wanted photograph them and concerned about where the photos would go. After a few seasons of building up relationships with them, that changed and they become really receptive to being photographed.
Who did you always look forward to seeing and shooting?
The list is so long. There are so many inspiring and stylish creatives working in the industry. My favorite subjects include Caroline Issa, Kate Foley, Viviana Volpicella, Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert, Shala Monroque, Michele Elie, Anna Dello Russo, Cristina Centenera, Holli Rogers, Ada Kokosar, Elisa Nalin, Yasmin Sewell, Vanessa Coyle, Hanneli Mustaparta, Kristina Gisors and Ece Sukan.
Do you have a favorite fashion week city to photograph?
I actually love different aspects of each city, with maybe the exception of London because the weather is so tricky in regards to shooting street style. I love shooting in the West Village in New York, in the piazzas in Milan and in the Tuileries or on the great avenues in Paris. All three cities are lit with their own special and unique light.
How and when did the lens get turned on you? Does it feel strange to be the subject matter now?
I would say that the lens turned on me around 2011/12. At first it felt very strange and I spoke to some really good friends about it. They encouraged me to embrace the new interest in my personal style. They also advised me that it was a great way to promote All the Pretty Birds and my other projects.
How has this changed the business model of your blog All The Pretty Birds?
Being captured by other street style photographers opened the door for other projects which positioned me as the protagonist. Over time I moved away from selling my street style images to magazines and websites, and I now focus more on projects where I photograph, style or model for digital campaigns, and I also design capsule collections.
As an industry personality, or influencer, now, if you will – what responsibility do you feel you have to your audience to maintain what you built?
I feel completely responsible. Especially because a part of my original audience still follows me and has encouraged and supported me throughout my journey. The people that I have met through my site and social network platforms are a constant source of inspiration. I am grateful for their engagement.
You live with your family in Milan – when did you arrive in this incredible city? What do you love about living there?
I moved to Milan in 2005. I had never thought about living in another country so I didn’t have any specific expectations. My experiences here has been absolutely incredible. The art and culture is impressive, the traditions are alive and charming, and the overall standard of living his fabulous – as the saying goes, [living in Milan] is really “la bella vita.”
As an American living in Italy – are there certain things you miss from home? Any things you will never get used to living abroad?
At first I missed the convenience of New York. The fact that everything was open 24/7, that you can order whatever you wanted whenever you want, that customer service was a real thing. But, I learned early on that the best way to fully adapt to Milan was letting all of that go. Since then I have grown to love Milan for all it has to offer (and not).
Talk to me about your personal style – how would you define it?
I would describe my personal style as adventurous. I like to try out new trends and different styles, I have my personal staples that I fall back on often, and I live by the saying “never say never” when it comes to style and fashion.
How do you pack since you’re traveling so often? Do you pick a theme, and build around it?
When traveling I pack my favorite/hero and staple wardrobe pieces and work around them. It could be a pair of trousers that I’m loving at the moment, or a favorite dress, but definitely almost always, a denim jacket or blazer, statement earrings and a cute mini handbag.
Who are your go-to designers?
There are so many talented designers and I appreciate all of their aesthetics. Some of my favorites include Rosie Assoulin, Gucci, Marco De Vincenzo, Céline, and The Attico.
What’s the best part of fashion week for you now?
Seeing the collections of course. Watching the clothes go down the runway, or enjoying a close-up look at presentations, the music, the mood and ambiance of each event. Even though a few years have passed since I attended my first show, I still get super excited. I am looking forward to Acne, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu.