You could say that Stacey Baker’s Instagram feed, stace_a_lace, has got legs. In 2013, Baker began photographing women in New York City from the waist down and now has more than 66,000 followers as well as a book due out this fall.
The project, a mix of street photography and portraiture, began when Baker noticed the legs and the cut of a woman’s coat while walking through the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. She asked the stranger if she could take her photograph and, happy with the results, decided to ask another woman. Shortly thereafter she started her Instagram account that quickly went viral.
“I love the serendipity of it,” Baker wrote about the work. “Of seeing a subject, asking her to participate, finding a nearby wall, and making a picture. It all takes place in no more than 10 minutes. The fact that most women I approach are not only willing to stop, but also put their purse down, take off their coat, raise or tuck in their blouse and stand with their hands up—all for a complete stranger—never fails to amaze me.”
She sees the photographs in an almost abstract way rather than a literal view of women from the waist down.
“My favorite pictures are the ones that become something other than just legs; when they look like sculptures,” she wrote via email. “I don’t mean to flatter myself or the project. I know they’re just pictures of women’s legs taken against a wall, but occasionally, the deconstructed legs look like something more. And I like that more often than not, it’s fuller figures that achieve that, not the model-thin legs. Models’ legs generally don’t make for interesting leg pictures. Legs with curves do and as someone who has always wanted model-thin legs, that’s good for me to see.”
In many ways, the project is as fluid as Baker’s entrée into the photo world. Almost a decade ago, Baker quit her job as an attorney in Texas and headed to Maine to study for a year at the Maine Media Workshops where she met Kathy Ryan, the photography director for the New York Times Magazine. Ryan offered Baker a short-term position at the magazine, which eventually turned into a full-time staff position.
“Now, almost 10 years later, I’m a photo editor working with some of the best photographers in the world,” she wrote via email. “I know how lucky I am, but I’m hanging on to my law license just in case!”
Most of the images Baker has taken were shot in Manhattan (she tends to gravitate around Midtown and Harlem) but she has also some images taken from villages in Ireland as well as in Paris, London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
The success of Citilegs is also due to the nature of Instagram, a medium which Baker, as both a photographer and editor celebrates. Her mentor, Ryan, also recently published a book that began as a series on Instagram of images taken inside the New York Times offices titled Office Romance.
Still, Baker said there’s room for improvement on the social media platform.
“Honestly, I’m getting a little tired of the sameness I see on Instagram,” she wrote. “By the way, I fully expect people to get tired of my feed, of seeing yet another pair of legs pop up! I haven’t stopped looking and liking but I wish I was seeing more variety, people experimenting more. Maybe I need to look harder.”
Regardless, there are certainly plenty of people checking out Baker’s work.
“I’m actually extremely insecure about it, not at all confident they’re interesting pictures. Isn’t it just another typology project? But occasionally, when I take what I think is a good or interesting picture, I wonder if there’s something to it. As cheesy as it sounds, I do kind of think it’s a celebration of the female figure.”