Ewen Spencer’s celebrated and spontaneous images of youth and music culture in his native UK and around the world, have kept him in demand with style magazine, global brands and the music industry for over 20 years. His acclaimed zines and books have led to two Channel 4 documentary series.
In this new commissioned project, Kick over the statues, Spencer’s intention was to re-establish a belief in youth tribes and style. In summer 2016, Ewen cast young Londoners along the route of the August 2016 Notting Hill Carnival and against locations in Liverpool.
Together these cities pose a representation of a diverse youth, celebrating and enhancing the idea of a UK diaspora, through style and cultural background with an association to music and culture that recalls the history of British Subcultures and invents its own contemporary incarnations.
The gallery installation resembled a snapshot of how photography is often encountered in the streets of a modern city. Large format images posted onto custom-built billboards were supplemented with music and projected images from Ewen Spencer’s extensive personal archive, presenting his influences over the years including film clips, book covers and records.
A Fabrica and Photoworks co-commission, this exhibition formed part of the Brighton Photo Biennial 2016, Beyond the Bias – Reshaping Image. BPB16 explored photography’s role in defining and informing our understanding of subjects such as: gender and sexuality, the representation of the body, the politics of style, subcultures and the subversion of social and cultural norms.
Identity and self-representation were explored in relation to the wider context of mass-representation; where self-image and attitude are often co-opted. The Biennial included work from documentary photographers and photographic approaches that knowingly reference the language of fashion and style photography, unpicking understandings of image and self-image in relation to society.
Ewen Spencer (b 1971) began shooting for visually driven style magazines, such as Sleazenation and The Face, with an emphasis on youth culture. His project Teenagers was shortlisted for the 2014 Discovery Award at Rencontres D’Arles and his four-part documentary film series Street, Sound and Style written directed and narrated by Ewen, was broadcast on Channel4 in 2015, posing questions later explored in a 2016 series, Oh My Mosch, considering British menswear’s obsession with flamboyant Italian menswear designers. Cover artwork created by Ewen for bands such as The Streets and The White Stripes has led to significant advertising commissions and campaigns. Ewen’s new imprint, See W, created in partnership with Olivia Gideon Thomson, publishes photobooks, focusing on youth and subculture research, photography and writing.