When you meet brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, it quickly becomes apparent that there really isn’t much, if anything, that they can’t do between them when it comes to creativity and style.
They are filmmakers. Their latest, Heaven Knows What, a painfully realistic portrait of homeless young heroin addicts living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was recently nominated for best feature for the IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards.
They are artists. Josh and Benny, 31 and 29, exhibited their latest work this fall at the Fort Gansevoort gallery, located in the meatpacking district, in a show entitled “Pieces of Advice x From a Pedestrian Point of View.” It was a large-scale, two-part exhibition. “Pieces of Advice,” inspired by writings in his notebooks, comprised Josh’s collage series and cutouts. “From a Pedestrian Point of View” was Benny’s medium-format twin-lens photographic vision of stationary cars, shot from the perspective of his stomach.
They write all their own screenplays. They’re also directors, directors of photography, film producers, sound recordists, and film editors. They are actors, Josh appearing in thirteen films, Benny six. They shoot commercials. They are even museum curators, having created “Museum,” a sixty-square-foot space, in what had been an abandoned elevator shaft on Cortlandt Alley.
They are very comfortable in all of their various guises, thanks in no small part to how comfortable their actual getups are — Josh in either black Carhartts or Wrangler jeans, Benny in his blue Uniqlo chinos. As far as the shirts they wear, Josh loves sporting vintage tees inscribed with a bold message, while Benny favors a preppier, more buttoned-down look. Come January, the siblings are set to shoot their fifth film together, Good Time, starring Robert Pattinson, described by Josh as a “fugitive story about two guys on the run from the law who are put together in very strange circumstances.”
While the Brothers Safdie appear joined at the hip when it comes to their films, their personal styles, and where they shop, couldn’t be more different:
111 East 7th Street (between Avenue A and First Avenue)
“My favorite place to buy clothing in the East Village. They are all about cheap vintage clothing. I like clothing that says something, like the T-shirt that I’m wearing right now, which says ‘Living Legend.’ I wore this thing all over the place in Japan for our film opening, because I need to be a living legend in Japan. I love stuff that has something to say, and Village Style has that.”
“I feel very boring in comparison [to Josh], because I love to go into Uniqlo and buy five of the exact same pants and five of the same type of shirt. Then I’m just done. I’m set. I like blues, I like whites, I like greens. I also like patterns, too. It’s a great brand that works for me. I have more of like a uniform type of thing going. I don’t really change what I will wear.”
1073 Sixth Avenue
“I love the Japanese. I believe that the mind is the disorganized place and the house has to be the organized place. I learned that I have to organize my stuff. It’s important. I do lists. So I love to go to Kinokuniya. They have great Japanese stationery. They have great Japanese magazines. It’s a Japanophile kind of place. They make the greatest pens, pencils, and pads. They have an obsession with organization. Their culture is insane. They will have a notepad literally designed on how to break down your day. I have two different Japanese pens. I use a sharp pen and a smooth pen. Smooth pen is for when I’m doing stream-of-consciousness stuff…it’s kind of illegible. A sharp pen gives me the obedience and diligence to write things that are legible.”
Bed Bath & Beyond
620 Sixth Avenue
“I love Bed Bath & Beyond, personally. I like getting my things organized. I like ‘as seen on TV’ stuff. I am a man of the present. I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have to think about it. I can always, at any moment, step into any situation.”
Westsider Rare and Used Books
“I made a movie in Westsider Books when I was a teenager. I still go there. It is the only place where I can buy DVDs, really. Kim’s is gone. None of [Westsider’s] stuff is new. They have a great collection of DVDs and VHS tapes. They are very cheap there. Everything is priced the same. They don’t care if something is rare or not. They don’t know.”
[This is part of the winter 2015 edition of The Seen, a quarterly style supplement by the Village Voice devoted to exploring and sharing the most dynamic elements of New York City’s fashion and design worlds, from the iconic to the as yet undiscovered. Check out the rest of The Seen’s featured stories here.]