Catching Up With Street Style Legends Tommy Ton and Phil Oh After 15 Years

Why do you think, from a business perspective, you’ve both been able to be successful at this for so long?

Oh: We’re so damn likable! [Laughs.]

But many photographers start out with street style and try to pivot to other types of photography: backstage, ad jobs, studio work, et cetera. Have you ever thought of street style as a gateway to another gig?

Ton: Phil, you can answer.

Oh: I mean, people would ask us, “So you have no aspirations to want to be a real photographer?” We are real photographers.

Ton: You know, whenever people say, “You guys are the pioneers of street style, blah, blah, blah.” I just think street style is a genre of photography that has, over the past two decades, coincided with the invention and huge fascination with social media. That was a huge disruptor in the industry that made fashion feel more accessible. So are we going to bite the hand that feeds us? No. We are so lucky to be able to be hired, to do a job where we just work alone and work quickly. Click, click, click.

I mean, that’s what we are known for and what we enjoy doing. Do we do other stuff? Maybe I do sometimes. I don’t know about Phil, but I am happier than ever to be here now. It’s a different time. We just came out of the pandemic and I feel like what’s happening now, particularly in New York, is very exciting. It’s a very exciting time to capture style on the street. It’s a new generation and a true changing of the guard.

Oh: It’s a disappearing of the guard rather than changing the guard.

Ton: Yeah, that’s true. People are over it. They’re leaving fashion. But it’s fascinating to me to see so many young designers’ shows where all these kids are attending—they are actually a part of the community. In Paris there are so many people outside a show—I mean, any one of them could be the next Virgil.

Maggie Maurer in Paris in 2020

Photographed by Phil Oh

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