These portraits capture the gold-toothed essence of New York cool
Photographer Chris Scheurich searches for a new generation of teenage fashion icons on the concrete sidewalks of NYC.
Photos by Chris Scheurich
Whatever its legacy as a piece of art, it’s hard to deny the aesthetic impact of Larry Clark's Kids. Both the wider New York skate-streetwear subculture it tapped into (a then-fledgling local clothes shop and skate team called Supreme provided a few of the film’s mostly-amateur cast) and its gritty, lo-fi cinematography have shaped two-and-a-half decades of fashion editorials and street-style portfolios.
But perhaps Kids’ most significant sartorial contribution is its elevation of ordinary youth cool – and the endlessly diverse, constantly shifting cool of young New York in particular – to the highest form of authentic style. It's this reverence for adolescent expression and raw stylistic self-confidence that Chris Scheurich, a documentary and fashion photographer from New Orleans, revisits in his latest photo series, named in tribute to Clark’s 1995 film and capturing a new generation of teenage street-fashion icons on the concrete sidewalks and playgrounds of NYC.
Hi Christopher! Can you tell us a little about you and your background?
I was born and raised in New Orleans and photography has always had an important role in my life. My father was a documentary photographer and as a child I tagged along and watched him take pictures in the streets of New Orleans. When I was still very young, I decided I wanted to follow his path and I started with documentary photography, but later moved into shooting fashion as well. In general, it’s something that enables me to meet a lot of people, and that’s ultimately why I do it. I’ve always just enjoyed people.
Do you remember the first time a photographer’s work touched you deeply?
With my father being a photographer and my mother a painter, I was fortunate to grow up in a household full of art and photography books. I remember being intrigued by Helmut Newton’s work. I would sit and look at the strange worlds Newton created.
What camera did you start shooting with?
My first camera was a Nikon F2. I still have it, it's an amazing camera!
Let's talk about KIDS, your most recent photo series. What made you turn your energy to this project?
I’ve been documenting youth culture for several years in New Orleans. I was speaking to a good friend who works in casting in New York and we began discussing his city's youth style. This led to him reaching out to some of the most memorable subjects he could think of and with which he had worked with. We set up a meeting in Chrystie Park on a hot summer day and a few dozen people turned up.
What did creating this series teach you?
I discovered that NYC’s kids are deeply dedicated to style. Many of them have made permanent or near-permanent changes to their appearance to further express themselves. Gone are the days where face tattoos, gold teeth and crazy dye jobs were considered counterculture. Now they are regularly used tools of self-expression and style.
In this project, you represent American men from diverse backgrounds. Is this something you consciously wanted to achieve?
New York is the largest gathering in America. It always has been. The diversity within these shots is in fact representative of the city.
How did you select the boys for KIDS?
I photographed many subjects this summer but felt that there was a cohesiveness to the individual styles of the subjects I selected for the series. I wanted to showcase young people who had a natural and real sense of style.
In an industry hyper-saturated by images, how do you produce new and exciting pictures?
We are absolutely inundated with imagery now. People are so visually stimulated that it's become harder to create images that capture people’s attention. I just try to find subjects and create images that excite me and that I find interesting. Hopefully, my feelings on the image are shared by the viewer. I spend more energy pursuing interesting subjects than I ever do thinking about gear. Photography for me is all about the subject. It’s just a matter of being lucky and finding the right subject in the right place at the right time.
Film or digital?
Film! And digital when I have to. I was lucky enough to invest in my film cameras before the latest boom in film photography, so I didn’t spend a ton.
Do you ever think photography is an elitist industry?
I don’t. It is easier than ever to get a camera and create. I’m a big believer that a good photographer can create great images with any camera. Even a cellphone can be an amazing tool in creating memorable images.
What is it that makes a photograph direct and intense?
A connection between subject and photographer. If the subject doesn’t connect with the photographer it’s hard to convey the essence of the individual. Cameras are a means of capturing a connection.
Are there any unexpected stories in these shots?
Many of the subjects from this series have kept in touch with me. I’ve heard a lot of unforgettable stories. One that stood out was the friendship of two young men. I went on to shoot a fashion editorial with them, near their lifelong homes in the Bronx. To me, the editorial shared a beautiful story of brotherhood and friendship. Their bond was something that stood out during our initial meeting.
Photograph by Chris Scheurich
Interview by Amanda Margiaria
This article originally appeared on i-D IT.