The young people Stephen Shames photographed in the late 1970s, in the best of the American documentary photographic tradition, were born poor in America, abandoned by adults and institutions, plagued by the violence of society. Stephen Shames becomes their spokesperson. Through his photographs and their dissemination, in particular in the form of books with engaged purpose, he insists on the idea that it is poverty which is at the root of all social problems and criminal behavior.
Projected into adulthood, unprotected, the very young people whom Shames photographs bear witness to, without pathos or staging. The photographer’s social and political commitment, which began his career in the 1960s as a columnist for the Black Panther Party, was confirmed in these reports, often produced over several years. The photographer lives by their side and records the dramatic density of their daily lives, in black and white photographs full of emotion and brute force.
Stephen Shames was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1947 and studied at the University of Berkeley, California. It was at the age of 19, during a demonstration in San Francisco against the Vietnam War, that he met
the future founders of the Black Panthers movement. He began to photograph the movement, in all its aspects, and was its main columnist for seven years. As a photojournalist, Stephen Shames views photography as a weapon of liberation, as a means of fighting for justice and social equity. During his long career, he documents the lives of the poorest, the most neglected populations and the youth who try to live and grow up in harsh and hostile environments.
In his own words, his photographic approach is to give a voice to those who are deprived of it. He is particularly interested in child poverty and racial or prison issues to draw attention to social problems in the United States, as photographers like Lewis Hine, Jacob Riis or Marion Post Wolcott did before him.
Stephen Shames has received numerous awards for his work and his works are kept in the largest public collections. In 2015, the Nicéphore Niépce Museum presented a retrospective exhibition of his work, making it possible to make this great American photographer better known to the European public.
Love is one of life’s mysteries. It is something that most can relate to and yet there is no one emotion that defines it. Love can bring elation, but it can also bring despair. For portrait photographer Laura Pannack, it is the mysterious and multifarious nature of love that draws her to the topic.
In2012, Pannack began collating a series of portraits of teenage couples. Young Lovewas born out of Pannack’s wider exploration into the misrepresentation of youth and investigates how a “relationship free of worry, responsibility, experience and future plans can ultimately lead to one of fun and intimacy.”
Olivia Bee is a photographer and director from Portland, Oregon who is based in Brooklyn, New York. She is intrigued by the beauty of everyday life and how the beauty of memories (real or imagined) touches us.
Photographer Hugh Holland was in the right place at the right time, he says. LA, 1975, specifically. "Skateboarding was happening in many places, but not like in California," he says over the phone from LA, where he still lives at 74. "To me, it seemed like this was the center of everything." Hugh's photos of long-haired, golden-skinned kids gunning down Hollywood's hills and tearing up its boulevards document the very origins of skate culture.
Over the course of three years, Holland took thousands of photos of the scene as it changed from an unruly after-school activity to a professional sport, complete with competitions, endorsement deals, and helmets. Glowing with late-afternoon California light, the images sat unsorted in boxes at his house for decades. But earlier this month, they went on show at Blender Gallery in Sydney (Hugh: "So many of these Australian surfers looked just like the kids in my pictures!"). And Hugh is still sifting through his crates.
"The series shows eight boys in Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark. When I photographed them, the youngest one was 17, the oldest was 23. I met them at night. One of them was sitting next to me, inhaling helium balloons. He looked so peaceful, even though his mind seemed to be on fire. His name is Mathias, he was 19 at that time. Basically, he is enjoying life to the maximum right now. Enjoying, because he has no serious responsibilities, no so-called obligations. And that's where freedom and excess starts."
Half-Dutch, half-Brazilian, THE KID (1991) is a self-educated contemporary artist who questions restlessly since his early teenage years the notion of social determinism and the thin frontier between innocence and corruption.
When asked why he chose to put his personal aesthetic and his various technics at the service of these social issues, THE KID likes to quote Oscar Wilde in "The Picture of Dorian Gray":
"Behind every exquisite thing, there is something tragic."
That's the thing, that all his subjects have in common - behind their youth and beauty lies a tragic story - like a flower that is destined to fade. His goal is to "capture them in their defining moments, forever caught between innocence and corruption".
THE KID is a committed supporter of the International Non Governmental Organization Human Rights Watch, which defends Human Rights worldwide, in particular for its fight against unfair social discrimination and inhumane juvenile justice.
Known for her striking documentation of American youth culture and for her revealing celebrity portraits – she’s had everyone from Texan teenage wolf packs to Rick Owens in front of her lens – bicoastal photographer and filmmaker Danielle Levitt reveals an innate sense of storytelling with this candid short that follows a young couple living on the streets of Venice, California. Levitt shot skateboarder Josiah and his girlfriend, Taylor, back in 2012, eager to give the compelling young subjects an opportunity to voice the reasons for their life choices, as well as sharing the joys and pressures they experience.