Adam Katz Sinding is elegant. His photographs are elegant. They bring to mind frozen clips of a fashion documentary. They tell a story, even if fashion is not your main interest. An inspirational photo-journalist, Adam demonstrated his passion for life and photography to Le report on a rainy day in New York City.
Tell me about yourself and your childhood in Seattle.
I actually grew up about 45 minutes south of Seattle in Tacoma, Washington. I don’t think I ever cared much about my clothes at all. My mom used to make my dad and I matching shorts every year on the 4th of July (my dad’s birthday) and I got to pick out the fabrics from the local fabric store. They always had about 15 different fabrics…most with fluorescent skulls or tropical prints. Aside from that, I was a “smart kid” and a “smart ass” I guess.
I did well in school, partly with brains, and partly with my skills of bullshitting. I worked in a mountain bike shop working on bikes. I was into cars…worked on cars…etc. NOT the fashion type.
I had a genius idea with a friend in High School that we would just buy 7 of the same outfits: one for each day of the week so we’d never have to think about what to wear, since that seemed to be a big waste of time. Gap jeans, Hanes white T Shirt, Adidas sneakers…that’s it. Easy.
You graduated with a degree in art history, tell me a little about that experience.
I was horrible at math. I took the bare minimum in High School. I really hated it. I didn’t like the idea of having to find one solution. I got to University and I didn’t want to take math. I didn’t care if I couldn’t get into the business school, Architecture, whatever else. I didn’t want to do math. Art History didn’t require any more math than I had already taken.
My mom is very knowledgeable about impressionist art and beyond, so it was all in front of me while growing up, so I thought it would be a good fit for me. I did pretty well. Not amazing… I didn’t apply myself like I probably should have. I just wanted to see the stuff, not see slides in a classroom. Who can really interact with art in a book or a slide? You need to be there. I wanted to travel. So I did a study abroad program in Paris.
Your mom is fashion designer. Tell me about her work and how it has influenced your career.
My mom is a designer, yes. She worked in active-wear mostly. She was the first designer at Blue Ribbon Sports, which as we all know, had a little line of running products called Nike. She also designed for White Stag (no longer around, but anyone older than me will remember them as the biggest sportswear company back in those days), Eddie Bauer, and designed the skiwear line for Helly Hansen for over a decade. I mean, I thought it was cool to have the pens around for me to color with. That’s about it.
We skied a lot. She travelled a lot, but it meant that I also got to travel a lot more than most kids my age. I think the first flight I ever took was to Hong Kong at 5 months old. I don’t think her being a designer sparked my interest in what I do directly, but I would always hear her analyzing people’s skiwear on the mountain…looking at the details, the zippers, the logos, the colors. I couldn’t care less, but I think that stuck with me a bit.
I started looking for her designs. Looking for trends. I wanted to have cool skiwear, because…well why not?
How did you learn French? How was your experience living in Paris?
I took French in 6th grade. The first quarter we learned Spanish, German and French. I didn’t want to learn Spanish; German was scary…so it was French. My mom speaks French (with a total American accent) and I was teaching Hebrew at the synagogue, so I could do the “r” that the other kids were have troubles with since I was having to use the Hebrew “Chet” which is even more disgusting to say. I took French for about 9 years, and never got too good.
Then I moved to Paris…with Monique…my host. She knew two English words: “Hi” and “Fuck” and I could only use one of those in a normal polite conversation…so I had to learn quickly.
Try buying a cellphone in the outskirts of Paris with textbook French. What’s a SIM card called in French? Oh, it’s “puce?” Ok, yeah, that makes sense…it’s a “flea.” Learning words like “abbonement” and “reseau” and then hanging out with French friends using words like “truc” and “mec” and the verlong…I was back at square one. But I REALLY had to learn when I got pneumonia, and was literally on my deathbed, having to describe my symptoms. Man, that was like a horror film.
When did you move to New York and why?
I landed in NYC on 31-December-2010 at 3:35pm. Why wouldn’t I? It’s really the only place to be for what I wanted to do. No where else can compare. There are other places with more money, more people, more art, but New York still has an edge. Fashion is everywhere
When you go shopping, what items do you most enjoy buying? Which designers?
I don’t go shopping. I’m a sniper. I know what I want, and I get it very quickly, and then I’m gone. Shopping only occurs on eBay when I’m buying camera gear.
Tell me a little bit about your website Le 21ème. Does it have a central theme and inspiration? What was its original name and when did it change?
It used to be called Le 21ème Arrondissement. It’s just too much. No one knows how to say that except for a couple dozen million francophones. You take someone’s photo: Them: “What’s it for?” Me: “My site.” Them: “What’s it called.” Me: “Uhhh, just give me your email, and I’ll send it to you. Even “Le 21ème” is too much. “Luh Van Tay Un Ee Em” It means, “The 21st” which was meant to refer to Paris, and it’s 21 Arrondissements, or quarters. It sounds so contrived, and so snobbish. No, there’s no conscious theme.
It used to be “Seattle’s Street Style Blog” but I hate the word “Blog” and the term “Street Style” so now my goal is just to post photos that show a feeling of a moment. An instant, which some kid in Tennessee can see and know what it feels like to be in Paris in the Tuileries and having a beautiful woman walk by in an amazing outfit with the wind blowing or the snow falling.
For me, it’s a scrapbook. I can scroll through and see what I’ve seen…like exact moments of my life, which were displayed in front of me at one point. I can relive these forever. It’s so weird, and I am so lucky to be able to do that.
Which was your first passion, photography or fashion?
I guess photography. I was still dressing like shit, out taking photos of construction sites and abandoned buildings…actually…it was the same time. I had just found out about Hedi Slimane…it was 2003/2004. That changed everything for me.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
Hmm, that’s tough. I like to buy things. I’m a consumer. My dad was a photographer as a hobby. He passed away and I got his gear. It never really worked right…so I ended up selling it to buy a new camera. I was addicted. I just loved it.
I felt like I was doing something so unique. I wasn’t, but it felt that way. I look at my old photos. They are really bad. But I was having SO much fun. I used to only shoot at night.
Go to places where it was illegal to take pics…we used to sneak into the Port of Tacoma and the cops would come and think we were terrorists documenting the layout of the port. I just wanted to do long-exposures.
I thought that was so cool. One time we broke into a site of an old arsenic plant to take pics. If I die of some freak tumor one day, show this to my doctors.
Who is your favorite photographer and why?
I think Diane Arbus. I love the photo of the kid with the grenade in his hand in the park. It’s just so weird. I’d be so happy if I’d taken that photo. That little kid if probably an old man now. That’s all I ever think when I see it.
Who is your favorite designer and why?
That’s tough. Hedi Slimane in 2001-2005. Now? Carol Christian Poell + Boris Bidjan Saberi. Why? I don’t know. When I put the clothes on I feel like it’s right for me. That’s the idea right? I don’t want to wear a costume. I want to look like these garments were made for me.
Who impressed you most when you photographed them?
My girlfriend. See below.
How did you meet your girlfriend Dana Suchow? How is she involved in the fashion industry?
I met Dana by taking her photo on my first real assignment back when I used to shoot for Elle.com. I shot her at the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in 2011. She was/is a babe. And I think she was drunk (on Veuve) so I actually stood a chance. She had a bright blue skirt on…otherwise I may have missed her, as I think she was laying down on the grass the rest of the day after that.
She doesn’t work in fashion, but instead works in publishing. She does this really amazing site called Blind Stab (Blind-Stab.com) and I do most of the photos of her. She’s extremely beautiful, and shines in front of the camera. Most importantly, she is HILARIOUS. Go to her site. EVERY day.
Other than your celebrated photo-journalism, what other projects are you working on? Tell me about them.
Most of my work is the same vein. I travel to all of the major fashion weeks, and I loiter in SoHo the rest of the time. Magazines like it, so I do some shoots in the same aesthetic. I also shoot some editorial, look books, etc. I’m always trying new things…who knows where I’ll be next year, but I absolutely will not stop doing what I do right now as it’s what I really love.
When and where are you at your happiest?
At home with Dana and our complaining cat Vita. Also being on a bicycle is nice distant second option.
Photographs by: Jose Miguel Compres
instagram and twitter are @le21eme
Photography: Jose Miguel Compres