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Photography India Sleem and Blake Lewis

The collective making art in their backyards in rural Utah

2950 is an energetic group of boys hoping to switch up stale impressions of culture in America’s west

Typically, when you think Utah, most people don’t envision raging youth culture. “It’s a rural, quiet, predominantly religious community with a large population of Mormons,” explains India Sleem and Blake Lewis, the minds behind a new photo series captured in the US state. “The usual interests are focused around school sports, family, and the outdoors.” Living amongst this sleepy town is a youth collective called 2950, comprised of Atticus, Ethan, Ian, and Neftali, and named after one of the boy’s addresses. As Sleem and Lewis put it, 2950 isproof that youth everywhere, even where you least expect it, are moving culture forward.

The boys spend most of their time in Atticus’s backyard. Nestled in the canyon, it’s described as a “creative outlet”, and includes a homemade halfpipe, a shed which has been turned into a music studio, and a lawn for football and wrestling. Atticus’s mum describes how she wanted her home to be a place where her children and their friends would find “refuge” and “feel accepted, loved, and have fun”.

“(2950 is a) group of youth whose interests are progressive, and test the boundaries of an out of touch place where they have grown up” – India Sleem and Blake Lewis

Sleem and Lewis note that everyone has a specific creative role in 2950. Neftali is the rapper, he writes most of the music and performs at their events while the rest of the boys act as his hype men. “They just performed to a large crowd at their concert in Salt Lake City”, adds Sleem and Lewis, “and have an upcoming show in January”. Ethan and Ian create new content, from photography to fashion, and music, and Atticus is a fashion designer who lists his influences as Raf Simons, Nasir Mazhar, and Shane Gonzales. “The reason why we all became friends is that we are different and alike in many ways,” says Atticus. “We all like the same things, but have our own unique style in the stuff we do. And we’ve just been friends forever, I consider them my family.”

For Sleem and Lewis, the impetus for lensing the collective is an attempt to lift the lid on youth culture everywhere, to globally map it, not just within major cities such as London and New York, but in places we might not look otherwise. “It’s important for people to learn about the boys of Indian Hills to expose a group of youth whose interests are progressive, and test the boundaries of an out of touch place where they have grown up,” explain the duo. “These kids have influences that are found beyond the confines of Utah, thus pushing the culture forward.”

Rather than seeing their location as a downfall, the collective acknowledge it as a point of difference. “Since everyone here is pretty much the same, we stand out,” observes Atticus. “There are no expectations, and we can just be ourselves.”

When reminiscing about their future, the boys are conflicted between staying in their hometown and making their mark there – and, ideally, by showing the world what Utah has in it – and leaving, to pursue everything that is offered outside of it. “I think all of us totally want to have an impact on our city and hopefully change it in some way. But looking up to people who are in other cities, doing what you want to do, makes you want to leave,” muses Atticus. “It would be cool to inspire kids here. A lot of artists and creative people wanna put Utah on the map – there’s a lot of hidden talent here.”