London Youth, the third publication in Hoxton Mini Press’s Tales from the City series, features compelling portraits of inner-city teenagers, some smiling, some serious; each a true portraiture of modern life for the city’s youth of today.
German-born photographer Julian Mährlein was inspired to start the project in the wake of the 2011 riots, which resulted in chaos across several London boroughs as well as cities and towns across England. Moved by the criticism of young people in the media, Mährlein (who has taken away a BA in photography from London College of Communication, and an MA in art and politics from Goldsmiths) sought to represent these adolescents through the truthful focus of his lens; beginning to wander largely urban areas, approaching those who caught his eye.
Photographing his subjects in an uncontrived, natural and positive light, Mährlein encourages the reader to challenge existing preconceptions of a generation so oft-misunderstood. The portraits, shot with natural light in the kids’ natural environments — football pitches; skate parks; basketball courts — show a tender side and serve as a reminder that not every ‘hoodie’ or pierced kid is a hoodlum. Something photography writer Gemma Padley understands, stating in her introduction that: ‘each portrait invites the viewer to pause, look and reconsider entrenched stereotypes. In short, they ask we give these kids the time of day’.
Not wanting to create a grand narrative or speak on behalf of those that appear in this publication, Mährlein’s contact with the kids was fleeting. Wove throughout the book, though, are some rare insights into their notions of living life as a youngster in the 21st century. Davina, for example, has a bullish optimism about a future many of us oldies read as bleak. ‘I feel like we’re being prepared for jobs that don’t even exist yet,’ she begins. ‘There are so many things being invented and created, and there so many people who will be needed to make the future work. So right now, when people ask me what I want to do, I don’t really know, but that’s okay because I feel like my future career is being created as we speak.’
Jake, mind, is less cheery, especially in his view of ‘smug couples’ who jog together in expensive jogging bottoms. ‘People like that don’t deserve to live in Hackney,’ he proffers, with a side of spleen. ‘To be honest, they don’t deserve to live.’
London Youth, book three in the Tales from the City series, is available to buy now.