The Kids AREN’T Alright

Life & Art Editor

So, there’s this whole youth revolution happening in photography right now. And it’s a given that only our generation is going to get it. There’s a huge generational divide in this country right now. Blame a lot of it on hip hop, ’cause with hip hop came Caucasian self-awareness beyond the nerds, with hip hop came a lot of guilt.

Hip hop culture begat Larry Clark’s Kids, which begat a lot more girls having sex earlier and a lot of white guys slinging weed and drinking earlier in order to gain distance from the sparkly images instilled by their parents and teachers. They wanted to be down too.

The “kids” desired “the real,” as told by them. We knew that drugs are bad. Alcohol is bad. Loud music is bad. We also knew that the mainstream media feeds off of us, lusts for our money, lusts to corner our culture, break down our ideas, mold them and sell them back as products at Urban Outfitters or as data in The Cassandra Report.

We’ve seen so much television to the point where we really haven’t “watched it” in years. Instead, we’ve raged harder in friends’ kitchens past midnight, we’ve raged against the poster-board America given to us, we’ve read more counter-thinkers like Miller, Bukowski, and Thompson earlier than our parents. We’ve become total e-n-e-r-g-y.

We’ve decided that, fuck J-Lo. We are the stars. We are the pure. We are the ones not forced to do pointless interviews all day long and act fake and request more make-up.

Who really has the more interesting lives? Who really is more intriguing and sexier? Who really is taking the risks and ‘fessing up? We are.

At least, we think we are. And upon this realization and self-imposed isolation, certain older members of this youth explosion have begun documenting it to great, almost depressingly great, success with cameras.

This photography operates beyond the rules and restraints commonly instructed at universities. It is, for lack of a better word, punk. It is relatively new – not as directly voyeuristic as Larry Clark’s Tulsa in ’71 – and if there is anything to learn from examples set in urban society – it’s that formality gets you nowhere and new ideas get you everywhere.

These images burn and caress with the passion of learning and being drunk before your liver calls you eternally to the shitter. We don’t care if you like it. We don’t care if you like what we write abot it. Yeah, that was a spelling-error. Oops. All “dat.”

Let’s drink and smoke (outside in NYC) and chat on beds and listen and read constantly until we die in our early 50s. This world is not going to get better, unless by better you mean Gattaca. Unless, by better you mean your kid will make it better, but that’s too far off right now and you’re ruining the buzz, so stop.

Perhaps, what makes this photography that much more substantial is that we can start to differentiate the movers-and-shakers involved in its come-to-being. Terry Richardson, 37, is the oldest of the bunch, if he’s of this bunch at all. He is infamous for fucking his subjects anally and massaging the results gently with a point-and-shoot (not always in this order, I assume). Jesus Christ.

Then there is Ryan McGinley, 25, who has used some boyish looks and profound talent to squeeze his way into the whole am-I-straight-or-gay-kiss-wink Art World of New York City by taking photos of friends, ones that seem like he’s peering through eighteen foggy and old television tubes of detachment. Good stuff.

There are other notables of course and certainly more on the way, but let’s skip ahead to 30-year-old Jason Nocito, an alumni of Parsons, whose work graces the cover of this month’s Fader magazine and has also appeared in VICE, Nylon and Dazed & Confused within the last year.

Nocito’s appeal arrives from his equally intimate, yet slightly more masculine eye when compared to those of his peers – he’s a little old school Rolling Stone.

To get personal, he reminds me of my aunt’s ex-ex-boyfriend, who used to help babysit my lil’ bro and me, who used to kick our scrawny asses in any NES game we rented for the weekend with casual authority. We’d watch him watch hard rock videos on MTV in awe, learning a lot about the essence of badass cool before mom pulled into the drive-way past midnight.

Notice that there is less shock treatment present in Nocito’s photos than in McGinley’s, less bleached-out pretense, more maturity. Nocito lets us know that this stuff isn’t kid’s play, he’s been shooting for roughly 13 years, but he’s not close to ceasing on the fun-for-life spirit. There’s a future there and here, no matter how short and sweet. He is living proof of the real deal, of security in this lifestyle – well, the scant amount you want in it before it’s lazy contradiction.

On October 23, Jason Nocito had his first photo exhibit at Bronwyn Keenan Gallery, 3 Crosby Street, in New York City complete with coolers of free Budweiser.

L&A: So, explain to the readers, what’s the best thing about being around for three decades?

JN: Being thirty. It feels…fucking great. It feels better than 29 did. My 20s and my teens were such a nightmare for me, it was tough, but it’s like that for most – bad relationships. I grew up in New York City and Long Island; my parents were never married. Which was cool because I got to see a lot of hardcore shows like Youth of Today; the only saving grace was music and then I fell into taking photos when I was 15. I stole a camera from my brother. I don’t know how I got into Parsons. Then when I got out of college, I just lived in the city, played music (guitar) in a really bad band, we did some demos for Warner Bros, took photos. Hanging out in the city, getting fucked up, no direction, wasting time. I was never into magazines; I’d take photos and put them under my bed. I felt like such a fucking loser my whole life.

L&A: Does Joe Icarus [of the Icarus Line] remember taking the cover photo for this month’s Fader?

JN: I don’t know. [laughs] Both of us were tweaked out of our minds. That was a fucking great trip [on tour]. The photos of Joe were a little evil, yeah, but those guys, we didn’t know each other at all. They were staying at Gideon Yago’s house, who’s a character man, he actually knows his shit. They thought I was just some fucking yazoo taking photos of them, like I was trying to suck their dicks. After the second day, they were just like, “Oh, he’s a fuck up, he’s like us.” Those photos are the way that I saw everything. The cover one of Joe (see right), we were backstage, and I had just done a line. I could barely talk and I took two photos of him against the wall. That was it. And those photos weren’t even for the Fader. I had pitched them a story six months earlier about the Icarus Line; and they were, “Meh, they’re not trendy enough.” The Fader doesn’t give a fuck about the Icarus Line. They’re just staying afresh.

L&A: Would you agree with some academic critics that what you do is basically take photos of drunken and attractive young people?

JN: I definitely have a lot of pictures of ugly people. [laughs] But in a way, yeah, maybe these are attractive people and maybe that’s why I’m photographing them. I’m attracted to them. I’m never like, “Okay, this is what I’m photographing today.” I don’t have projects. I am going to go photo ten photos of snow cones. No. And it’s not even about the drinking as much as being on the edge – feeling emotionally unstable. It has nothing to do with the alcohol and everything to do with feeling like you’re losing your mind.

L&A: Do you feel that’s a part of our generation and that might be why your photos are gaining exposure?

JN: I think so. I think everyone is trying to shut off these days. Yeah, shit ain’t right these days. I feel that the more that I do, as far as being honest with my photos, is all I can do. That makes me happy and that’s most important: to be happier than I’ve been recently.

L&A: Do you feel that your work, your view is different from photographers and friends like Tim Barber and Ryan McGinley?

JN: I have a different view from them, totally. My shit is way more sleazy, not sleazy, more raw – more “dude-esque.” [laughs] I don’t shoot a lot of girls. When I do, they look like guys. [laughs] It’s not at all homoerotic. I don’t photograph them like I want to fuck them; I photograph them like I’m photographing myself. Ryan is great, but we definitely have two entirely different points of view. There’s hasn’t been a lot of straight stuff, especially out of New York. A shot this family in Long Island, really weird, fucked up people drinking wine (see below). I lived with them. Those guys shoot more beautiful people. And Terry [Richardson], that guy is just a fucking genius.

L&A: One of the photos in the exhibit that simply tripped me out was the one of “Muzzy.” (below) What’s the deal with that guy and what was he on? It reminds me of The Shining – all entrances, exits, puffing crazy eyes.

JN: Muzzy is the coolest dude. He’s a brother of a friend. I have no idea what he’s on. [laughs] We were just fucked up. That photo…I want to do an entire show like that, with that kind of energy. The people don’t have to be fucked up, but they need to look like they’re going to explode. Like that photo of me where I’m jumping into a bed and I look like I’m going to break in half -like that. The photo of Muzzy was taken at my friend Kenneth [Cappello]’s house. Kenneth’s a little fashion pussy now, always in Paris taking photos of models. [laughs]

L&A: Gangster. You and Kenneth took photos of each other for the recent Fader with Outkast on the cover. (see right) Is it different taking photos of another photographer – is the message desired easier to capture, especially when it’s, “We drink a lot?”

JN: Not really, but that night at his house was crazy. By the end of the night we were just getting wasted with these two models. I have photos from that night with him just getting down with these two models who were just ridiculous – ridiculous. He ain’t got no game, but the girls love him, they just love his fucking baby-face. That night when I took that photo in the deli might’ve been one of the most drunk nights ever. He got pile-drived into the cement by my friend and he was spilling stuff all over his shirt. I ended up at some girl’s house. She screamed the next morning, wondering who I was. [laughs]

For more info and more photos, visit The newest Fader with Nocito’s photo of Joe Icarus on the cover can currently be found in the UM bookstore.

Hunter Stephenson can be reached at

For examples of Jason Nocito’s work: read the L&A article entitled, “Come In. Why? See” in this edition.