NYC Youth Culture with
Halloween House Party, 2014. Photographed by Lauren Lepore
How is your quarantine going so far?
Living in NYC, the quarantine has been a little crazy. A lot of my family is on the frontline of the pandemic so a majority of my time has been supporting them supporting others. My aunt is a nurse in the Bronx and my uncle works in the Supreme Court building. They’re both deemed essential but their 3 children are all out of school. Each week I go over to babysit with a new arts and crafts activity to keep them entertained. I do as much as I can to keep them out of their parent’s hair, but also as much as I can to teach them what they’re missing out on from schools being closed. It’s been insane watching so many aspects of our daily lives change but it brought us even closer and that’s something I’m immensely thankful for.
I know you are from NYC, how does your city influence your work?
A lot like the city I'm from, my work exudes diversity. Everything in NYC is so fast-paced and in the moment and as a photographer, I’m the same way. That’s what I love the most about New York, as a photographer from here, day to day activities become photo adventures because of the characters that make this city so colorful. I’ll shoot anything given the chance. The uniqueness and genuine nature of my work allows me to capture moments that others are unlikely to recreate because the moments themselves can’t be recreated.
What is your approach to photographing strangers?
A saying my mom drilled into my head growing up was, “You always catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” I try to apply it to a lot of my everyday scenarios, especially my photography. No matter what the situation, I always make sure a smile is plastered on my face so the person knows I’m there to do good and not harm. People can be really intimated getting their picture taken so I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible when behind my lens. I make sure to find something I love about each subject and accent that in their photo. When you start a photograph with a smile and end it with a compliment you’re almost always guaranteed to get a genuine photo.
Festival, 2017. Photographed by Lauren Lepore
How do you find your subjects?
They say that there are six degrees of separation but sometimes it feels even smaller than that. A lot of the people in my photographs start out as strangers and end up being people that so many of my friends know. I love it the most when the subjects of my photos start as strangers and stay strangers. Those are the photos that stick out the most to me. You can meet someone and photograph them in a monumental moment of their lives and never know. That’s the most beautiful thing about photography.
Do you place a lot of importance on camera equipment or film stock?
I’ve been working on a project for the past year called “Intimately Disposable” where I shoot disposables in order to highlight the importance of the photographer behind the camera rather than the camera itself. By using disposable cameras that are easily accessible to the public, I’m showing my viewers that it’s always the eyes behind the lens that matter the most. I plan on expanding the series to include other photographers to further prove my point. You can give 10 photographers the same camera and each picture you get will be different.
What interests you about youth culture and what is so important about capturing it?
What I love the most about youth culture is that it is forever changing and adapting to the times and it’s so important to capture it exactly because of this. What you know today could easily be gone tomorrow, nothing is forever. As a photographer, I’ve taken it upon myself as a responsibility to ensure those moments last forever. As a society we’ve become accustomed to constantly moving and progressing that we are constantly looking for something to slow us down, photography is that. I freeze moments in time making sure they live way beyond the society we exist in. The youth culture of today is important and relevant, but it will only be even more relevant 20 years from now.
Aquaria at Jeremy Scott NYFW Party, 2018. Photographed by Lauren Lepore
Favorite city you visited while traveling around the country taking photos?
My favorite city I’ve visited while traveling taking photos has to be London. I just last year began traveling internationally to photograph youth culture overseas. It’s been a blessing to meet so many amazing people that have introduced me to the worlds they live in. I’ve been able to intimately photograph how kids love, live and laugh in other countries because of this. London is easily my favorite because of the similarities I saw to NYC culture while out there. I love being able to find places that feel like home no matter how far away, as a photographer it’s something I’m constantly searching for behind the lens. I found it while in London, I loved my trip there I even made a zine about it, it’s called, “Far Away From Home” lol
What music have you been listening to lately?
I listen to a lot of electronic music. I love the fact that beats can transcend language and become a universal tongue. That’s what I love the most about EDM, that there’s no need for lyrics, no matter where you are in the world, what language you speak, you can understand the music. I’m almost thankful for the quarantine because I get to listen to a lot of DJs I love, live every weekend, its like a dance party at home.
What project are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my collection of pictures about youth culture. It started with a simple idea in mind, capturing the world around me and what I was living through no matter where I was. It ended up turning into this heartwarming project that has not only led me across the country and back but across the world as well. Being an open, non-judgmental person has led me to have friends from all walks of life near and far. I never thought about the photos I was taking until years later looking back on them in retrospect. I was so dedicated to accurately capturing my world around me, I never stopped to think how influential that work would be later on when that world no longer existed. I’ve found that the photos I take are not only historically important and relevant, they’re emotionally important and relevant to me and to others. I’ve been contacted often throughout the years for photographs I’ve taken of people who have passed. I never think of that level of importance of my photographs when I’m photographing.
Is there anything else people should know about you?
I make zines out of all of my projects. I studied graphic design in college and fell in love with self-publishing. It’s become a second passion of mine to be able to create something that will exist way beyond me and my work. To be able to create tangible art in this day and age is so important because everything now is virtual. I love being able to create stand alone pieces that are made out of hundreds of photos pieced together. Being able to piece my work together like a jigsaw makes being a photographer that much fun, each zine is a different outcome.