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Bruce Davidson, Brooklyn Gang
“Untitled” from the series Brooklyn Gang, 1959Photography by Bruce Davidson, courtesy of The Photographers' Gallery

A century of teenage dreaming

From the streets of South London to the glitz and grit of New York, explore the past 100 years of youth culture and its bittersweet rights of passage

What makes being young so exciting? It’s a question new exhibition We Could be Heroes at London’s Photographers’ Gallery aims to provide a cacophony of visual answers to when it opens this Friday. Focussing on the post-war period, an era that saw the first generation of  ‘teenagers’ – a newly dubbed term – injected with a sense of optimism as they lifted a middle finger to the traditions of the past. The group show, featuring photography masters Bruce Davidson, Ed van der Elsken, Bert Hardy, Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Roger Mayne, Chris Steele-Perkins, Anders Petersen, Al Vandenberg, Weegee and Tom Wood, charts this international development of youth culture over the period of the past 100 years. Davidson candidly captures a Brooklyn gang of teen dreamers engrossed by James Dean and Marlon Brando in 1959, while Knorr and Richon’s obsession with the London punk scene spills over to provide a set of aesthetically thrilling images and an accurate documentation of the subculture’s symbolism. Whereas, elsewhere, both van der Elsken and Petersen immortalise the confusion that accompanies such newfound freedoms. Though the subjects differ in age, location and sartorial taste, one thing is consistent throughout the work of each photographer on show; an unwavering rebellious spirit, a yearning sense of freedom and a charming knack for discovery.

We Could Be Heroes is on show at London’s Photographers’ Gallery from 6 February – 12 April, 2015. For more, click here