“Death of Youth”
This project stems from the idea that when a man turns thirty, he reaches a threshold where the possibility of fulfilling youthful fantasies ceases to exist. I have aspired to create a project that not only exemplifies the desires I had as a young man, but also illustrates the desires of a man transitioning into a new life period. In this sense, this series documents a lifestyle that I yearned for as a younger man, and one that I possibly still crave. When I turned thirty, the fantasy portrayed in these photographs became impossible: the person who lives such a life must be born taller, better-looking, handsome, charming, famous and wealthier than I. This project provided me with closure as I concluded one segment of my life—my youth—and began another. I named this series “Death of Youth” as a testament to growing older and leaving my youth behind.
The aesthetics of the project come from my childhood. I have always been able to express more through a single photograph than thousands of words, which is why I chose film as the medium for this project. By shooting all of the photos on film—a dying form—I was able to encapsulate the sense of memory that is so important to these photos. I was extremely strict about not using digital re-touching software to keep the images unembellished and true to life. These techniques provide the viewer with a refreshing look at beauty. Put differently, as more and more photos are manufactured through Photoshop, these images release viewers from this paradigm and allow them to live in this testimonial of a young man’s youthful fantasies.
I photographed 100 women to further demonstrate the fantasy of this lifestyle. The majority of these women do not fit into the typical characterization of “fashion model” that dominates much of today’s photography. This provided a more raw and realistic vision of this fantasy. I shot each model one-on-one without lights, make-up artists, stylists or assistants. This provided a much more intimate environment in which I was able to connect with my subjects on a very personal level. On the other hand, these conditions varied greatly from my normal working conditions. Often times I became frustrated, as I had to navigate these sessions without the personnel and equipment I have become accustomed to in my work. The limitations I set for this project were both unique and trying for me, but ultimately produced a final product that truly embodied the intimate nature of this project.
Understanding the intentions of this body of work is most important when examining the photos. It is important to look at the whole of this work, while also enjoying each photograph individually. I sought to make each photo and woman beautiful. The images are not refined and many resemble snapshots. The hyper-sexualized nature of the images evokes the feeling that the photographer is involved in numerous casual sexual encounters. Through the expressions, locations and nudity captured in these photos, I tried to give form to the aforementioned fantasy lifestyle.
By participating actively in the creation of this project I was able to live out my youthful fantasies. I became the “jet-setting playboy” that I admired from my youth, like James Bond, Hugh Hefner, Terry Richardson and Helmut Newton. Moreover, I embodied the life of today’s version of these playboys: the blog-centric photographer, the archetype of a sexual icon. I concluded that the lifestyle that these rock stars portray in the public is much more a marketing tool than a real way of life. By shooting numerous women and interacting with them on a personal level, I proved to myself that this fantasy is easily manufactured when one has enough will power and money to sustain such a lifestyle. In other words, I found that the allure and mystery of a photographer’s celebrity status is manufactured.
In the creation of this project, and by living this “rock star” lifestyle, I discovered that I also had to confront the negative consequences that come with it. For example, many peers criticized my artwork, claiming that I was using it as an excuse to take picture of naked women. However, this was certainly not my intention. The photos are not meant to arouse viewers, but rather provide them with the memory of their own youthful fantasies. For me personally, the photos were a means to conclude this fantasy from my youth and to produce a project that fully embodied it.
The “Death of Youth” series provided for me a medium through which I was able to capture mementos from my past. I was able to live out the fantasies of a younger version of myself through the creation of this project and found that much of this lifestyle was just that: fantasy.