11 Photographers Who Specialise In The Genre Known As The Youth Code


In photography, there has been a very strong interest in documenting and portraying the intriguing nature of the young human beings.

There are some classical topics in creative fields these include death, happiness, depression, euphoria and love. And there are some photographers that have been working these topics around the wild and bold nature of teenagers and even kids, these photographers are the owners of The Youth Code.

photo by jordan mcqueen
Photo by Jordan McQueen

Children and teenagers are the main subjects of this particular theme in photography. But beyond that, the common denominator that we can find in all these bodies of work is the transformation between being young and, well, less young.

Upon adolescence, everybody struggles between the self-being and what society expects from us. Many individual and collective conflicts burst away; so, what better topic for a photographer in search of stories to tell?

From social and documentary to conceptual and artistic photography, here is a slight brush-stroke of some of the many photographers working to capture youth as they are, and maybe, promise to be.

Larry Clark (1943 – )

Highly seduced by subcultures, Larry Clark has worked on projects that focus on the illegal use of drugs and violence. His most emblematic work is perhaps a photo book called “Tulsa” published in 1971.

In this book, he presents autobiographically what the life of teenagers in his native city of Oklahoma is like. This work went beyond a mere voyeuristic documentary work, Clark was in his own way a participant in the convulsive dynamics that he portrayed in this documentary work.

Today he has developed various photographic projects and even films with very similar themes to those in Tulsa.

Loretta Lux (1969 – )

Loretta Lux presents us a very surreal idea of children and childhood. Her portraits depict children with an absent aura, totally inexpressive.

With careful compositions and lighting techniques, she portrays the essence of children when they are absent and still facing things they can't even start to understand.

Her work has been awarded and has a strong influence from painters like Velázquez and Bronzino. She started experimenting with photography since 1999, and her style has remained solid and constant. Children are a metaphor for a lost innocence.

She works each image in an arduous way, taking up to 3 months on each of them as if they were paintings.

Bruce Davidson (1933 – )

As a Magnum photographer, Bruce Davidson is famous for being socially skilled with highly hostile and hermetic communities and, as such, he has managed to document their reality, unlike any other photographer.

From his photographs from Harlem to the circus community of New Jersey, Davidson's work is a clear example of how important it is for a photographer to have social skills that allow them to approach people and gain their trust.

Kitra Cahana (1987 – )

Kitra Cahana has worked on several reportages thanks to her profession as a photojournalist, but there are certain issues that move her more than anything else; youth and adolescence.

In her work “American Teen” she shows us the classic and eternal conflict of the misunderstood, nihilistic and out-casted teenagers who momentarily enjoy life through ephemeral moments of combustion. And in “Teen Mom Graduates” she shows us a reality that barely anyone has documented.

Mike Brodie (1985 – )

Mike Brodie, also known as the “Polaroid Kid” is an American photographer with extensive experience documenting the highly forgotten, the US tramps.

He has been inactive for some time, but his photographs turn out to be one of the best ways to illustrate the lifestyle that these people have, who risk their lives in order to move within the States.

He is considered to be the Jack Kerouac of photography. His intimate portraits are charged with vibrant colors and a careful presence of movement (due to trains), and they capture reality without any filter more than the aesthetic experience that his images produce.

Julia Fullerton-Batten (1970 – )

Julia Fullerton-Batten is a fine art photographer who has won various and meaningful photography awards during her career. Teenage Stories is her best-known work.

In this, she presents various young teen girls as giant characters that hardly fit in a comfortable way into this world. This illustrates very well that peculiar nature of the adolescent who finds no place in the world and also wants to devour it.

Boogie (1969 – )

Vladimir Milivojevich, aka Boogie, is a prolific photographer from Serbia and based in New York City since 1998. He appears in the documentary film directed by Cheryl DunnEverybody Street“, and has published six photo-books.

He has documented the intimate life of junkies and the gang culture as well. He has earned the respect of many people thanks to his ability to enter a world that few have managed to portray in a photographic manner.

Lise Sarfati (1958 – )

Lise Sarfati focuses on youth through her photographs. While living in Russia, she photographed not just the forgotten and abandoned young ones, but also the decadence and degradation of the industrial areas that surrounded them.

Both themes are combined in a very accurate metaphor of the current dystopian adolescence in Russia.

Sascha Weidner (1974 – 2015)

Sacha Weidner's photographs are characterized not only by the obvious presence of youth in them but also by a peculiar cinematic quality in a pretty odd ratio of 1:1 that doesn't bother the viewing experience at all.

It is common to find in these frames a confrontation of the subject with the edge of the frame as if it were a metaphor of adolescence.

Angela Strassheim (1969 – )

It is very interesting to see how a forensic photographer becomes a highly regarded fine art photographer. Among several of her current themes, there is Youth, and it is perhaps her photograph of Alice in a Pool, 2006 one of the most iconic of this theme.

Ryan McGinley (1977 – )

Another photographer who embraces youth as a theme. His photographs show all the energy and passion that the roads arouse as a broad synonym of freedom for the young Americans. McGinley began shaking the art world on his 25th birthday, and is one of the youngest artists to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2003 he was named photographer of the year by American Photo Magazine.

The transformation between childhood and adolescence is a fertile territory to be photographed in a documentary or conceptual way.

Inspired by the combustion and erratic nature of the youngest souls, these photographers have entered a world that is terrifyingly distant for many.

Photography allows their stories to be told from an intimate and close angle, which seeks to share their energy beyond understanding or exposing them.

About Author

Federico has a decade of experience in documentary photography, and is a University Professor in photography and research methodology. He's a scientist studying the social uses of photography in contemporary culture who writes about photography and develops documentary projects. Other activities Federico is involved in photography are curation, critique, education, mentoring, outreach and reviews. Get to know him better here.

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