Well guess who just got paid..? So, to part with some cash before it all went on dull practical things, off i went to Claire De Rouen, in my opinion Londons best photography bookshop. Better than the Photographers Gallery (who just sent a circular saying they have many more books than those on display), better than Koenig – as I said, in my opinion Partly because the staff are amazing – and very well informed – partly because they hold quality contemporary publications. So there.
I bought two books, but I’m going to talk about this one:
I don’t warna grow up | Sean Vegezzi | Seventeen – Nineteen | 1st edition 1000 | 2012 | £25
On the tube home I was nervous about buying this book, I went to Claire De Rouen with another book entirely on my mind. Vegezzi’s book appealed to me with its indie graphic novel style cover, it reeked of cool. But that’s exactly why it made me nervous.
I’m sure I’m not alone in buying things like this and then getting home and realising it was something without substance. In this case I suspected a VICE magazine treatment (where this story has had some exposure) – VICE stories often seem to contain more sensation than depth, they’re more cool than insightful. I unwrapped the cellophane from the book right there on the Piccadilly line and investigated…
It didn’t take long to realise I was wrong. Vegezzi’s photostory is a tale of a group of boys, his friends, on the threshold of adulthood who respond to their urban environment of New York by daringly making their own world out of it. The subway system is their second neighbourhood, their night-time neighbourhood. Here they explore and invade forbidden areas, cross subway tracks to explore, discover, paint the walls, find worlds-within-worlds, meet friends and reinforcing their own bonds. With the curiosity of cats they explore this new world during a brief period of potential that exists between the end of childhood and the dawn of their adult lives.
It’s unusual to see a perspective from a group of boys of this age with such access and intimacy. It reminds me a little of Skins and Punks by Gavin Watson, who, as one on the skinheads / punks on the scene took pictures over a many years from inside both these 1980’s sub-cultures. This makes both these books very insightful, and successful documents. This is because these images come from within the photographers own experience.
It seems to me that most other photographs of this age group are usually based on youthful beauty and often appear as single shots – such as fashion or the type of photos you see on (the nonetheless excellent) if you leave website and publications. But this book offers something different, the fact that the photographer is one of them makes it a special book.Vegezzi’s collection of images reads like a novel in some ways. His clear photographic style suits the material well and he has an excellent eye for a good picture, using perspective and composition beautifully, but he employs a photojournalist approach, rather than a more painstaking ‘art photography’ which wouldn’t work here – he’s not afraid of blur or noise and his edit describes the story – how it feels to be one of these boys, what their world is like. This story is the heart of the book.
The text, which appears at the end of a the book, redefines the images after the viewer has seen them. It subsequently invites a second viewing for a deeper understanding of these young men. Beautifully written by one of the group; Abeliene Cohen. Is deftly crafted to describe these lives and their behaviour. I was struck by this sentence, and how it relates to us all;
“I found it surprisingly easy to separate the subject from my own experience, to let them grow from rowdy kids to universal symbols.”
….and how he discribes, that at least from thier own point of view, they are ‘regular kids’;
“It’s true that there is a certain amount of criminal activity involved at some points, however the recurring trend leans toward a much more innocent concept…. what’s happening here is an alarming exploration of spatial and social boundaries”
Its all there, in it’s pages, for the taking. It reminded me of how this period felt – even though this period of my youth, growing up in London was very different, it also left me feeling light, vibrant and alive.