I met photographer William Yan in the Dell Tech Lounge at New York Fashion Week last Saturday. He was in town braving Nemo to photograph fall fashions, but he is better known for so-called “street style” – pics he takes of stylish New Yorkers, primarily in Soho. That’s where he first saw Kanye West and snapped a valuable photo…that Yan posted on his blog and never sold. One of West’s friends read the blog and alerted Kanye, who tweeted it to followers, now numbering 9.2 million.
Since then Yan has continued to post photos of West, none of which has ever earned him a dime. In the past, the sale would have established Yan’s career; now it’s worth something more than money.
“I feel it’s more powerful to have my original content on my website; it gets me more traffic. People search for Kanye West, see my photo and the fact that I didn’t sell it. When Kanye first tweeted my photo, I understood the power of social media,” Yan said. The move earned West’s trust; Yan has photographed him several times since.
As enthusiastic as he is in tech and social, Yan shoots on film and has the photos made into digital files later.
“I feel like using film slows everything down. You think more about your shots, about what you really want to shoot, because you’re paying for the film and to have it processed for digital files. It’s a little bit more special. I need to hold onto something. To have something physical is really precious to me.”
Except when that something is cash. Would you trade it for audience?