Johnny Cirillo of @WatchingNewYork is the People’s Paparazzi
Most of us take to our phones for fashion inspiration, but someone has to hit the pavement to document the best in street style. Enter Johnny Cirillo, the photographer and founder of the Instagram account @watchingnewyork, who’s better known as The People’s Paparazzi for having immortalized the fits of New Yorkers for the last seven years. Capturing candids from the street corners of Williamsburg, Cirillo is a kind of Bill Cunningham for the digital age, photographing everyone from Julia Fox and Corey Feldman to the thousands of less famous but still eccentric pedestrians who grace the city’s sidewalks each day. In this week’s installment of SEARCH HISTORY, we DM’d Cirillo to find out his most recent google searches, the city’s most fashionable neighborhoods, and the most desperate attempts to catch his attention.
JOHNNY CIRILLO: 42/M/NYC
INTERVIEW: What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
CIRILLO: Think of something happy. Sets the day in the right direction.
INTERVIEW: What’s in your system currently?
CIRILLO: I ate a diesel breakfast burrito from Druthers out on Long Island this morning, eggs, hashbrowns, smoked Gouda, sour cream and avocado in a wrap. Washed it down with a boba, picture of health. Oh, and ranchero sauce. It’s so good. I need to pace myself. Otherwise, I’ll eat one daily. For reference:
INTERVIEW: Fit check?
CIRILLO: An old, tattered pair of scotch and soda conductor pants, knees are blown out but I refuse to stop wearing them. A Mickey Mouse sweater and a blue denim coat with sterling that I thrifted recently. Duck camp hat with a mallard flying.
INTERVIEW: What were your last three google searches?
CIRILLO: Haha! Asteroid City trailer, vintage green gum-ball machine with stand, What would win in a fight, a badger or a cobra (my son asked me for this, half of my google searches are for what animal will defeat what animal). What a great interview!
INTERVIEW: Stalking platform of choice?
CIRILLO: Hard to pick one. I spread out but if I had to pick one it’s Instagram.
INTERVIEW: What’s the best reaction you’ve gotten from someone you’ve photographed?
CIRILLO: Earlier on I photographed these two sisters from India, they told me that the photos make a difference and inspire them and their friends all the way in India! Was the first time I thought of my photos reaching beyond our country and it always stuck with me. They were so kind and sweet and INCREDIBLY dressed! But I love, truly, every interaction I have.
INTERVIEW: What’s the worst?
CIRILLO: I’ve been grabbed a few times and shouted at and threatened. Comes with the territory, I guess.
INTERVIEW: What music do you listen to while you shoot?
CIRILLO: Always changes. Lately it’s been a lot of De La Soul, Herman Dune and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. When it’s really cloudy and moody I tend to listen to jazz.
INTERVIEW: What neighborhood has the best fits?
CIRILLO: Oof! Every neighborhood is good for it’s only specialness, I tend to enjoy the looks in Williamsburg, because it’s where I find the most creativity. Lots of thrifting and self made clothes that are 1 of 1’s with a story behind it. Love a good story.
INTERVIEW: How many unread text messages do you have?
INTERVIEW: What’s your password?
CIRILLO: Ha. One of my passwords, but won’t tell you what it’s for, is “Donteatboogers.”
INTERVIEW: You have a coffee table book coming out next year. Describe it in 3 words.
CIRILLO: Belonging, acceptance, community.
INTERVIEW: What season makes for the best pictures?
CIRILLO: FALLLLLLLLL. Fall, spring, summer, winter. In that order.
INTERVIEW: What’s an account everyone should follow?
CIRILLO: @Calvingrindz for making you laugh, @Hunter_prosper for the feels, @Timmchiusano for life/family/vlogging.
INTERVIEW: Read receipts on or off?
CIRILLO: On. I’m an open book.
INTERVIEW: What’s your most incriminating accidental email/text?
CIRILLO: I just bought a bunch of thrifted clothes and immediately texted my wife about how much of a steal it was and how I couldn’t believe the good stuff I got for so cheap! I texted the shop owner 🤦♂️
INTERVIEW: Where do you spend the most time online?
CIRILLO: Zillow, eBay and Yahoo Fantasy Baseball.
INTERVIEW: Recent city fit you wish you’d thought of first?
CIRILLO: My friend Darnell rolled up the other day with his leather jacket upside down. The waist cinch acted as the collar. Hard to explain but it was tough and worked.
INTERVIEW: Celebrity with the best street style?
CIRILLO: That I’ve photographed, Corey Feldman, Julia Fox, Jaden Smith. That I wish I photographed, Jonah Hill, Harry Styles, Zendaya 🤞🤞🤞
INTERVIEW: Most unconventional material you’ve photographed recently?
CIRILLO: Chainmail armor and fur pants.
INTERVIEW: Most desperate thing someone’s done to be photographed by you?
CIRILLO: I wouldn’t say anybody has done anything desperate, but often times I see people walking past me four or five times.
INTERVIEW: If it wasn’t New York, where else would you be watching?
CIRILLO: Never been on a plane, don’t know much outside of New York, but from photos and reading I would watch Milan 🇮🇹
INTERVIEW: Who would win in a fight, the badger or the cobra?
CIRILLO: Haha let me ask my Son! … THE BADGER! 🦡 🦡🦡