Photos documenting LA's unique 90s youth culture

Published here for the first time, the images chronicle the interval between the Rodney King riots and the coming digital revolution.

by Nick Waplington
22 September 2021, 8:30am

Nick Waplington: “By 1995 I’d gotten to the point where I’d run out of space in the UK. I was trying to escape the cycle of how I was living, going out every weekend and trying to work in the week. I wanted a different life. But with hindsight I realised that I just went somewhere else and ended up doing the exact same thing all over again.

I was in my mid-twenties and I thought I’d go back to LA and spend some time skateboarding before I got too old to skateboard. And I took my camera but I didn’t have any desire to do very much or any long term projects in mind. I just wanted to skate a lot and photograph my life from the perspective of a young person looking for fun on the margins of society.

So I went to LA and I found myself falling back into the life I’d tried to escape in London. I found myself going to raves in the Sierra Nevadas and at the old theatre on Venice Beach. I went to rap battles and open mic nights and visited the set of Baywatch and I just started documenting what I was doing.

I spent a lot of time hanging out with Kool Keith, and took a lot of pictures of him. He couldn’t drive and he lived in Hollywood so he’d phone me up and we’d go for a drive and hang out, take some pictures and chat.

I’ve always been documenting my life. That happens in the background. I’m always looking for the new thing and the next thing, but there’s a certain point where it becomes interesting to look back and reevaluate old work, especially if you’ve been working out in the real world. Looking back at this work, published now for the first time, I think this is an immersive look at LA youth culture in the interval between the Rodney King riots and the coming digital revolution.”

Los Angeles