Sure, he’s a sought-after San Francisco photographer, but anyone who’s seen Devlin Shand rock a pair of heels knows he is a man of many talents. The East Coast native received early exposure to the stage thanks to his community theater-loving parents, but his passion for performance took a turn midway through college.
“I took a movement class in which the professor had us convey everything we’d learned for our final using any artistic medium other than theater,” he says. “I took the point-and-shoot I’d been using to document my college experience, went up with a friend to the woods behind our dorm, and did a mini fashion editorial.” The results were so stellar, Shand felt compelled to recreate the magic. “I was transferring to a school in New York City at the time and switched my major from theater to photography — the rest is history.”
But life behind the lens hasn’t taken Shand entirely out of the spotlight: At the recent Tokyo Gamine fashion show, he worked the runway in a floor-length gown while serenading models and dancers. Whether he’s hosting, singing or snapping pics alongside Drew Altizer, Shand’s one-of-a-kind style takes center stage.
Golden (Gate) opportunity: “There’s something about being here for me that feels fated. I do feel this city is alive and she sees what’s going on, and if she wants you here, she lets you know it.”
Camera shy: “Whenever I’m shooting someone who’s hesitant, I always tell them that with me, for that moment, if they can love having their photo taken, it will make the world of difference,” he says. “If you’re stressed and uncomfortable, you’re going to look stressed and uncomfortable! Having your photo taken at a party, if done right, should be fun! Let it all go and enjoy yourself.”
Shop around. “I only buy secondhand. I’m committed to reducing the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills and not contributing to the slave labor practices of the fast-fashion industry. There’s a surprising amount of incredible stuff people practically give away that you can get at a fraction of the retail price. Wasteland is my absolute favorite—they always have a great supply of unique designer pieces in a price range that this working artist can actually afford.”
Put a face on. Fans of Shand’s Instagram (@itsdevlinbitch) know he’s a fan of cosmetic experimentation. “The artists and drag queens I work with and around inspire me every day with the incredible amount of time, skill and creativity they put into their makeup.” He loves the easy-to-find brand NYX and says he lives for Urban Decay eyeshadows.
Playing hooky. Shand’s ideal day off in the city is the stuff San Francisco dreams are made of. “Let’s start with some stretching and/or yoga, then coffee and breakfast at The Matching Half. Since it’s ideal, it’ll be a glorious 75 and sunny, so I’d pack up some snacks and some rosé and head to Marshall Beach for the majority of the day, then home and get ready for a night out. Start with dinner somewhere I haven’t tried, then drinks and dancing with friends, live music or a drag show.”
By design. “I obviously love [couturier] Yuka Uehara, and have been so inspired by working with her. The joie de vivre and sense of playfulness within her work I think is a beautiful echo of the spirit of San Francisco. You can’t look at a Tokyo Gamine piece and not feel the life in it.” As far as interiors go, Shand is a fan of Ken Fulk. “His use of Old World artifacts plays beautifully against the bold colors and lush fabrics, and there’s always a certain amount of cheekiness I can’t resist.”
Walking tall. How exactly does one go from Chuck Taylors to Louboutins with grace? “Oh girl, practice. It took a long time for me to work up the five-inch stilettos. When I first started, I was walking like a man in heels, which isn’t a cute look. Someone told me to think toe-heel rather than heel-toe, and that changed the way I walked. But again it all comes down to attitude—once you don’t feel like you’re going to fall in them.”
The Photographer’s Eye
A few of Shand’s favorite shots.
“Armitage Gone! Dance was working on a piece about fables in Prospect Park and I was lucky enough to capture this image.”
“The cross on Mount Davidson is so austere and dramatic, of course I wanted to add to the drama.”
“A collaboration with local drag icon Grace Towers. I’m so inspired by what she creates and the boxes she’s willing to step out of.”