Steven Sweatpants
JUXTAPOZ|Winter 2021
Back to Basics
Charles Moore

“This is the first night that the city had established a curfew. I remember my mom telling me to watch my back when I went out that night. I didn’t know what to expect. The commute from Bed Stuy to uptown felt faster than ever. My palms were lightly sweating and my thoughts were moving faster then the train. But when I finally got out, and saw the thousands of humans in unison, I felt immediately at ease. My soul was blanketed with conviction and reassurance that we were in this together. The further we walked into the night, the stronger we grew as movement. The closer the clock moved towards curfew, the more empowered we all felt. While I was walking in the crowd and documenting for The New Yorker this summer night, I literally walked into a car. It was somehow masked in the center of the crowd, just creeping at a slow speed but with allies in the whip in solidarity. Me and the brother made direct eye contact with each other, and he sat on top of the car and slowly raised his fist. That moment felt like the definition of what it not only felt to be out that night, but how we will define our generation’s stance on the black experience.” —Steven Sweatpants

Above: Steven Sweatpants, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Photographed by Jessica Foley

Ask Steven “Sweatpants” Irby how he got his start as a photographer, and he’ll describe a brief stint working at GameStop in the early years of Instagram. A customer entered the East Flatbushborn, Queens-raised photographer’s store, mentioned the app, and the street photographer knew he’d stumbled upon something that would deeply impact his life. He started documenting his neighborhood via iPhone, bought an old Canon Rebel XSN film camera for fifteen dollars, and the rest is history.

The iPhone and film combination helped to get his foot in the proverbial door, and today Sweatpants shoots digitally more often than not—generally with his Sony a7R III. The cofounder of Street Dreams magazine is signed to Sony as part of the Alpha Collective, which, with a sly smile he admits, consists mostly of his friends. Aside from that, he explains that Sony cameras offer an ideal blend of speed and light. Sweatpants also loves his Contax T2, a 35-millimeter film camera he can slip into his pocket when needed. The street photographer doesn’t have opposing gear, and that’s the way he likes it. “I love being quick and nimble. I don’t mind moving when I take my photos.”

Above: Juneteenth 2020, Brooklyn, New York, June 2020

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