Portraits of Youth

I haven’t been a lecturer all my life. Its actually not something I aspired to be until photography happened and the rest just went belly up, whilst photography grew steadily a part of me, or rather, it became all of who I am today.

Amongst the numerous challenges an educator faces on a daily basis in class, one thing that strikes me most is how these youths behave and interact with one another and with myself in class, as well as outside class. I try hard not to use the phrase ‘in my time’ with them because I recall vividly how I used to eye roll anyone who did that to me when I was in my teens.

I started this project purely by chance. I was in class one day, explaining to my students how projects can be started. The topic was documentary portraiture, and as an example, I shot a photo of Deacon (below). There was something about that patch of sun hitting his face that made me shoot without thinking much, and his gesture came so natural that it just clicked - a new project was born right there in front of my students whilst I was actually showing them how to start one.

Deacon - shot on Iphone 6s

Deacon was my muse, and his gesture encapsuled all that he is - a young guy who’s mind is as fast as his running skills in football. He plays hard and is always on time with his assignments; he loves his girlfriend but still wants to look cool. Sweet!

The project took a while to pick up. The key to this project is observation. I am however, trying to find a way of stabilizing a shooting style so that they all have that homogeneous look. However, what keeps me back from doing that is diversity. In a world, where everyone wants to be different, I have second thoughts about whether to condition my subjects into being what I want them to be, or letting them be who they want to be in front of my camera. Tying this to my lecturing philosophy - I do not lecture to make others be like me, I merely facilitate the learning process so my students discover who they are through the medium of photography in whichever way they want.

There is more to this project that intrigues me. Having lived my teenage years in the 90’s, life was way different. Having a branded t-shirt was an impossibility, texting was done face to face, and internet was something for sci-fi movies. The way we dressed and our attitude to live was different. Our idea of authority and respect had other meanings. Clothing told us apart from various musical tribes. I look at my class today and I can’t really decipher much about their musical tastes, their clothing is branded or at least far more high end than the 90’s, and the word ‘cool’ is also sounding passe to them. One thing maybe remained the same - the wish to be an individual and unique.

Through this project I hope to document youth as seen in the classrooms and school corridors, as well as others I encounter on my journey through life. The youth I face every day. The youth that drives me crazy sometimes, but also the same youth that I want to embrace for allowing me to get to know them and understand them.

To be continued….

PS: My latest shots are Ben & Martina

Instagram Page: Portraits of Youth

Ben - shot on Canon 5D Mk3

Ben - shot on Canon 5D Mk3

Martina - shot with student’s own camera