Street Unicorns: Bold Expressionists of Style is a new photo book by Robbie Quinn, a New York City-based commercial photographer and a favorite amongst the followers of The New Yorker Life. His work allowed him to travel to more than a dozen countries and is associated with current social issues like race, immigration, gender identity, and sexual orientation, encouraging diversity and inclusion.
In Street Unicorns, Quinn shares viewpoints, aspirations, and masterfully done portraits of more than 250 style rebels, revealing his genuine curiosity in people who choose to express themselves through their style; “The conscious choices we make by uniquely presenting ourselves say we matter. It says this is me, and perhaps because we are not all quite the same, we can learn and grow from each other.”
Q&A with Robbie Quinn on Street Unicorns: Bold Expressionists of Style
NYL: How did Street Unicorns start?
I started Street Unicorns unconsciously. It just happened. In my book, I do my best to retrace my life’s experiences to understand what drew me to the work. I think in a large part, it’s my response to the many injustices that humans needlessly inflict on each other. It’s my hope that the book will inspire people to take more risks in expressing their most authentic selves and have others gain more acceptance and appreciation for those that are different from themselves.
NYL: How did you meet the Unicorns?
I’ve met some of the Street Unicorns on social media, some have found me, but mostly they are chance encounters. Whenever I see one on the street, I compliment their style and it often leads to an impromptu photo session. Things are very rarely planned. I’m photographing individuals wearing what they put on that day in the place where we met with natural light. That’s what makes it authentic and special.
NYL: Photographs are stunning! Aspiring photographers will want to know about your equipment.
When I’m not photographing commercially, I always have a camera with me, usually a Sony a7R IV with either a 35mm f/1.4 or an 85mm f/1.4 lens. I started using the 85 more when we wanted to keep more distance from each other for Covid reasons, but now I really like the look of the 85.
However lately, I’ve been using more film too. I learned photography using a Minolta x-700, but I recently started using a Mamiya rz67 pro ii with a 110 2.8 lens. It’s a medium format camera and made for the studio. It usually requires a tripod; it’s a bit heavy, but I like using it handheld on the street. Definitely a bit more conspicuous, but that has some advantages.
NYL: What did you learn in the making of Street Unicorns?
Meeting all these different Street Unicorns from here in New York and the rest of the world has expanded my understanding of self-expression. It has brought into greater focus the idea that we all deserve the freedom to be our unique selves. Rather than building walls, connecting with someone quite different from yourself is an opportunity for growth and learning more, not only about them but also yourself.
NYL: Do you have future plans?
For the future, my only plans are to have no plans. I like to stay open to what life brings. I do know I’d like to travel more and not simply to tourist stops. I want to meet more people and keep exploring. There’s something to be said for staying in one place and putting down roots, but for me, I enjoy the stimulation of constant change.
Prepared by Güney Cuceloglu for The New Yorker Life.