photographer chus anton captures the beauty and optimism of youth
The photographer and 'Park Life' zine founder discusses the raw spirit of adolescence and why you should live life to the fullest.
"Youth is wasted on the young," George Bernard Shaw once said. It's a sentiment is vehemently opposed to the photography of Chus Anton, a documentarian whose work captures the many thrill-seeking teenagers he's encountered since the age of 12. Desperate to preserve his precious memories, Chus spent most of his childhood recording his adventures in parks, at gigs, at parties, or even just hanging out after school. Though he's grown older since first capturing these quests, his subjects have stayed the same. "I've always been fascinated by teenagehood," he reflects, "It's like a 'work in progress' period when you live life to the fullest, you develop your own tastes and sensibility, you experience your first times, you build your own identity as a young adult. The fearlessness of youth has something really magical and powerful that I try to capture in my pictures." With a book and zine already under his belt (and a new one in the works) we talk to Chus about the beauty of adolescence and why you should live life to the fullest.
How did you get where you are today?
I've always tried to do what I believe in, by following my instincts and being constant. To me, collaborations and building a team that you feel comfortable to work with are also very important.
How would you describe your overall aesthetic?
I love to shoot in an intuitive and spontaneous way. I also like to blur the lines by mixing fake/real elements of subjects in my pictures. Pop aesthetics and imagery have an influence on my work, even if I'm not always conscious of it.
Who or what else inspires you?
Music, record covers, pop culture, all musical and fan movements in general. Any song by Cocteau Twins or Electric Light Orchestra — they are two of my favorite bands ever! Spanish Kinki movies, and also daily life. It's so inspiring to see my nieces growing up.
Your first book was called La La Land. What was the concept behind it?
During a trip to Paris, a friend of mine brought me to Serge Gainsbourg's house, on rue de Verneuil. I'm a huge fan of the singer and I was really drawn to the energy of the place. With my friends Lorena and Cristian, we started to think about doing a photo book in which we could capture all those "iconic places" that were important to us. That's when the La La Land project came out. We thought Los Angeles was the perfect place to do that, to hunt the ghosts of our pop icons. There's something really fascinating, kind of ghostly about L.A., with all the movie and music legends that are haunting the city.
What's the story behind Park Life zine?
I've always wanted to document a single group of teenagers. It came out in London the summer of 2015; I worked with my friends Ahida and Greg on it.
What makes it stand out from other zines?
Its large format, newspaper style and that it shows teenagehood in all its aspects — the ups and downs. I tried to reflect in the layout and the edition of the zine. This restlessness and "beautiful ugliness" characterizes adolescence to me.
What do you think your photos say about youth?
That's a tough question, and something I'm still trying to figure out. I've always been fascinated by teenagehood. It's like a "work in progress" period when you live life to the fullest, you develop your own tastes and sensibility, you experience your first times, you build your own identity as a young adult. The fearlessness of youth is something really magical and powerful that I try to capture in my pictures. To me, even "adolescence's ugliness" has a kind of beauty.
How do you feel Instagram has affected our visual climate and photography today?
It's clear that Instagram has affected our visual climate and I think most of the changes are positive. To me, social media democratized the art of photography. It's never been so easy to share your personal work and find an audience for what you do. But in some ways, I regret that images have become "more ephemeral" than before; I mean, everything goes much faster now. That's also probably why I prefer to use film and still take a special interest in printed pictures. I like taking my time and I'm more into a slower process.
What's the most significant photo you've ever taken?
Last summer, my niece Andrea just turned 17. My sister and I put together all the clothes we used to wear at that age and I shot her wearing them. It was such a special and strange moment. It was a lot of fun to do this with them.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Focus on your own thing and don't pay too much attention on what others do.
What's the greatest adventure you've ever had?
If I had to choose, one of my greatest adventures would be when I spent some time living and working in Japan. I always dreamt about it. I'm really thankful that my job enables me to travel a lot.
What's the bravest thing you can do as a young person?
Explore, discover, experiment. Live youth to the fullest as it's going to be soon part of your memories and that's something you'll try to remember for the rest of your life.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on publishing my own magazine. I also have several photo and zine projects coming soon.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Chus Anton