AudiPhotography Oumayma B Tanfous

Photographing NYC’s new generation and what the city means to them

Photographer Oumayma B Tanfous asked ten young New Yorkers how the city shapes their creativity

With each new decade in New York comes a new wave of young creatives who define the city in a different way. The 1960s had Andy Warhol, who used the city as his playground – especially with his secretive club, Factory, which hosted stars of the 1970s, like Jean-Michael Basquiat and Keith Haring who used the city as their canvas. In East Village at the same time, a romance blossomed between Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, whose work grappled with the weight of the city. In the late 1970s, Grace Jones shot to fame with Portfolio, which featured three songs from NYC’s famous Broadway scene. All of these icons were impacted by the power of the Big Apple – but how is New York still influencing its emerging creatives today?

It’s this question that prompted Tunisian-Canadian photographer, Oumayma B Tanfous, to lens a new wave of New York’s emerging artists to produce her photo series Akrav Kids. Set at both the beach and in the city, the photos from Akrav Kids are reminiscent of the golden haze of the 70s, while also mimicking the documentary composition of Larry Clark’s KIDS.

“Today young people are much more self-aware of their rights and values. Artistic genres are mixed and they are way more open-minded” – Ouma B Tanfous

The series shows a community of artists aged 16-21 who make up the recently launched street cast agency Akrav. Alongside the photos, they discuss new ways in which young creatives are growing within the city of dreams. “I feel that everyone I admire passes through New York,” says Tanfous. “Today young people are much more self-aware of their rights and values. Artistic genres are mixed and they are way more open-minded. With social media, there’s this feeling of anything is possible.”

Looking at the series from a wider perspective, just like KIDS, Tanfous’ series is a permanent zeitgeist for what New York youth culture is in 2018 and how it has grown since the 1990s. “When I was shooting the Akrav kids,” explains Tanfous, “I felt as if I was part of their secret community, but also that I was documenting the rise of something very special. I think they are ‘new’ in the sense that teenagers these days have much more going on for themselves, besides ‘fucking’ and doing drugs, than Larry’s KIDS. Whether it’s creating their own clothing line or making music, they take much more charge of their own lives and thus contribute to shaping culture and our society.”

To celebrate the launch of Akrav Kids, here are 10 emerging creatives from the series on what New York means to them.

JAYA, 16, MODEL

“Being a young creative in New York is scary yet empowering, because you’re born into a very diverse, judgmental, two-sided city so you can never expect what could happen next. I love the people, the art, the skate parks, the food, the weather (at times), and the museums. The city is surrounded by buildings, workers, tourists, children, elderly etc, so us young creatives really stand out amongst the crowds. I hope to be an author in the future, as well as a model and a happier person.”

TAY, 18, MUSICIAN

“I love New York because when I'm here it makes me hungrier to get a bag. It's a tight place to be an artist because nine out of ten times, there is someone with the same passion or goals as you. I don’t think too much on politics. Most of my family has been living in the same conditions since Bush was president, so until I see somewhat of a change for the minorities, I won’t indulge in politics.”

MYONNE, 20, MUSICIAN/PHOTOGRAPHER

“I’m constantly inspired by the sights and sounds around me in the city. Basquiat also definitely inspires me as a creative. What I love about New York is how accessible everything is. It's really easy to be independent in my city. For my future, I hope to be able to live and exist off of my art.”

JOHNNY, 20, MODEL/ARTIST

“I don’t really do inspirations and all that stuff. I look to myself for that. I love New York because all it really takes to find something to do is to go outside, once you step out it’s an adventure. You’re young and talented with the city in the palm of your hands, and NY picks and chooses who they want coming out on top.”

PARIS, 20, STUDENT

“Creativity is so broad, and I think its interaction with location depends on your individual aims and practices. There are a lot of paradoxes to the city; utilising the positives while finding a balance outside of it is important, at least for me. I know I’m lucky to even have those opportunities, though. I love New York’s sweaty summer and walking for hours around the city. New things inspire me all the time. I like folk music, the middle of nowhere, this book of tragedies I'm reading, the water.”

BOBBY, 21, PHOTOGRAPHER

“Being a creative in NYC is fire, especially where I grew up in in the Bronx, because I feel like it’s just me, but the second I go into the city there are a hundred kids just like me or who can relate to me with similar goals and aspirations. I love everything about NY. If I weren’t from New York, I’d wish I was from New York. I have no expectations for the future, I just know everything’s going to be straight. All my homies and I are going to be legends. On a side note, fuck Donald Trump. My barber got deported, that’s fucked.”

AUDI, 18, MODEL/ARTIST

“For me, coming from Buffalo, New York is an intense, busy, fast lifestyle. I love the diversity of people within New York and the city is made special when there are caring people genuinely trying to help you and your craft, which is rare to me in a big city. Jim Henson, the creator of Sesame Street and The Muppets is my biggest inspiration.”

KEVIN, 21, TATTOOIST

“New York is a vibrant big city where new things are born at any time. It’s an international metropolis, and it is also a seaside city. Of course, it will always attract the injection of young blood which keeps the city creative. My faith and my family have driven me to work hard. This is for my future and the future of my family as what is taught in Asian tradition.”

JEFF, 20, ARTIST AND POET

“Being a young creative in New York is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you’re exposed to more eye-opening ideas/opportunities and also that someone’s always watching. At the same time, you have the curse that you have to constantly adapt and manoeuvre so you being a ‘creative’ always ends up being a hobby. Besides that, overall NY does prepare you for almost anything.”

JAY (RIGHT), 21, CREATIVE

“Hooligan Rad and Jason Santore are really my two biggest inspirations, no doubt. Back in school, I was the only one on the goth wave, and everybody hated on me. Now look at how the tables have turned – that’s the biggest wave out here now. Being born in a city so wild and knowing where you come from, and how it has an effect on you just makes you want to grind. Being able to be yourself in a city full of people trying to be themselves too is hard, but also beautiful – nobody should be the same. Everybody has to stick out like a sore thumb sometimes. In the city that never sleeps, anything and everything happens here, you just have to be awake and alert.”

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