youth in revolt

From anti-Trump protests to hanging out in the city, Gray Sorrenti documents life growing up in New York in 2018.

by i-D Team; photos by Gray Sorrenti
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May 4 2018, 8:09am

This article originally appeared in i-D's The New Fashion Rebels Issue, no. 352, Summer 2018.

Hi Gray! Can you tell us a little about your earliest memories of photography and what made you want to be a photographer?

Some people say when you are born or when you die you may see a bright light. The second I came into this world, I quite literally think I saw this light. My little eyes eventually adjusted to this flash. My dad took endless amounts of photos of me and my brother and my mother. We’ve all experienced this flash of light for as long as we can remember. I’ve grown up hanging around my dad's sets, causing trouble, sneaking into the shots, messing around with the clothes, make-up and hair extensions. My dad gave me my first camera on my 13th birthday, opening up my curiosity for photography. Even though photography was a part of my everyday life, I had never experienced it by myself. I set out with my Pentax, discovering the secrets of what the camera had to offer to me, and I loved everything about it.

How would you describe your aesthetic? How did it develop?

I wouldn’t say that I have fully discovered or developed my aesthetic just yet. I believe it takes time and experience to fully understand what your specific style or feeling is. Some people never figure this out and continue discovering their “image” their entire life. At this stage, I reveal the truth and I disagree with idol worship. I am creating the myth of my time by weaving my experiences into history.

Why do you shoot on film? What do you like most about it?

I like the feel, the sound of the click and the idea that you may have a completely blank roll. Film is soft and touches my heart. It's a longer process than digital but it just does it for me.

Describe your New York...

New York is separated into seasons. In the summer we are street rats, roaming around the city with our eyes wide open, observing and looking for something that hits the spot.

Fall is beautiful; we are still those summer street rats, but we begin to prepare for a few months of the unknown. The skateboarders prefer it because it’s not too hot, the babes think they can still wear shorts and the rest of us, photographers, painters, and musicians, appreciate the greenish-yellow, brown, red, and purple; the endless amounts of the color palette that come with the season. We just go along with it, some dreading the next season in line, and others excitingly waiting for its arrival.

Global Warming has this season all confused, but when it’s right on time, it’s you, wrapped in endless layers, barely visible. At this point, we make do with what we have, gathering together, day and night to keep each other warm. A little dance party here and there, a sip of tea, and searching for sunshine. We roll our eyes at the guys who walk down the street wearing jogging shorts, a T-shirt and a pair of gloves. We just try to stay in the spirit of things before the birds start to whistle and the sick season hits us hard.

How does the city influence you?

New York City is like its own country. It’s the city that never sleeps. It’s fast and it’s ferocious. It’s full of characters and it’s separated into five beautifully different boroughs. If you step outside, who knows what might happen next. New York is a definite city of endless possibilities. We are all neighbors and if respectful, we are all cool with each other. Diverse and interesting, the city stands strong to protect its people and to ensure a good time to its visitors. That is why it inspires me.

Describe your friends...

There’s no judgment or deception; we never talk shit. We pick at each other’s pimples, but they never pop. They can be cute and other times stinky. We never lack laughter. We are so connected that we aren’t even aware of how much we impact each other. There is no room for jealousy or negativity. We respect and admire each other. We lift each other and we love each other and I could never survive without them.

Which photographers influence you, and why?

The list is endless!

Daido Moriyama, Bruce Davidson, Seiji Kurata, Igor Palmin, Danny Lyon, Mary Ellen Mark, Phillippe Chancel, my uncle Davide Sorrenti, my papa Mario Sorrenti, my zia Vanina Sorrenti, Dorothea Lange, Tina Barney, Nan Golden, David Hockney, Sory Sanlé, Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, Malick Sidibe...AND SO ON AND ON AND ON!

Can you say a few words about the images you've shot for the issue, especially at the Trump protests.

As you can imagine, at the time I took these pictures New York City was in mourning and completely enraged by the results of the presidential election. There was no way in hell that the city was going to stand quiet. I couldn’t vote in the election but I knew had to be there; the urge to be apart of this moment was very clear. I left school early and planned to meet my friends but I couldn’t find them in the chaos, so I proceeded to jump into the sea of like-minded bodies and walk the walk and take it all in. It was an amazing feeling to be united and angry but peaceful in NYC on a dark and rainy night with such beautiful strangers, young and old, every shade, shape and size there to represent. Locking eyes and exchanging smiles in the fight against evil felt good. Knowing that I could capture this historical moment was pure bliss. It’s clear my generation has had enough of the greed and irresponsibility of the old guard and we are here to fight and stand up. We are ready to push hard for civil, human and environmental rights. The protest on November 9th, 2016 was my first, and since then I’ve been documenting quite a few. I am excited that I can take part creatively in the movement, telling my story and sharing my point of view without fear. That is a right I will always fight for. If it takes someone like Trump to wake up the living dead, bring it on; our generation is very awake and are here to fight monsters like him.

Gray Sorrenti