“I was thinking that the “straight” or naive approach to the theme would be to just play to popular conceptions or idealizations of youth — and I certainly have photos that do that. I used to make a lot of work like this. But in the past few years, I don’t know….I don’t really buy it anymore, I guess. I think a lot of what we see in such photos, by myself or others, is to some degree performance: all these kids, my peers, are hyper self-conscious and incredibly media-savvy. All too often I’ll be out shooting snapshots and hear someone whisper that the photo just taken of them would make a good Facebook profile pic, or some such comment. Once I heard someone, who was running around with some friends on an golf course at night, shout out “why isn’t this being photographed?!”
I think that I now try to approach this subject in a more clear-eyed and honest way — showing the good and bad, wonderful and absurd. I have started an informal project to document this culture more critically (I think there is so much vanity and superficiality among this generation) but also, if I am to actually transcend that at all, with more empathy as well (not pretending that the vanity undermines all the good that also exists, and also understanding that vanity as something woefully, and sort of beautifully, human). The photo of the “kids in the grass” plays to this (Heather says: come to the show to see what image he’s referring to…) – I love that you said “kids,” that’s exactly what I was going for, I wanted to render them (these over-the-top hipster friends of mine, these peacocks, so highly decorated) as children playing in grass, stripped of their affect, innocent.
Finding a good balance is hard though, because I still want to document it relatively straight. I think I’m still working out the kinks, refining my understanding and expression. It’s been a big undercurrent in my work these past few years, I’m sort of on a mission to do this right.” via HMAb
More of Mark’s work here