The Best Photo Stories of 2020, Documenting Youth Culture

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DISKO© Andrew Miksys

From the dancefloors of 1980s Ibiza to secret parties in rural Lithuania: a round up of the most inspiring youth-focused photography we published on this year

The halcyon years of youth have long captivated image- and film-makers. Shaping the cultural landscapes of their respective eras, the euphoric freedoms and inherent pains, counter-cultural ideals and rebellious fashions of communities of young people have continually offered us bold new ways of seeing the world.

During this dystopian year – when we retreated indoors, and nightlife venues, galleries and shops all shuttered – youth culture photography has offered a visual escape from our isolated lives, allowing us to dream of coming together and letting loose once again. Here, our round up of the most inspiring youth-focused photography published on AnOther in 2020 – from the dancefloors of 1980s Ibiza to the secret parties of 1990s rural Lithuania.

No System by Vinca Petersen

A visual tonic to this year, Vinca Petersen’s cult diary-slash-photo book No System is a euphoric portrait of the artist’s days spent on the road with various acid house sound systems – travelling across Europe, raving, revelling, and living in total freedom. “I wanted it to be a kind of brochure for an alternative way of living,” says Petersen of the personal title, which was first published in 1999 and re-released this summer.

DISKO by Andrew Miksys

Andrew Miksys’ decade-long project DISKO documents the underground parties of rural Lithuania between the mid 90s and early 2000s. Full of beauty and awkwardness, Miksys’ photographs were first published in a monograph in 2013, and were shown at a nightlife exhibition at Open Eye Gallery earlier this year. “It was a brief moment in time where it felt like something really unique was happening, but the places and people I photographed are gone forever,” Miksys told AnOther.

I Can Make You Feel Good by Tyler Mitchell

Celebrated image-maker Tyler Mitchell’s debut book presents a powerful vision of a Black utopia. Filled with the American photographer’s signature, sun-drenched scenes, the title is one of vibrant optimism and unbridled beauty, which was widely recognised as one of the standout photography releases of the year. “From that starting point to having a published book, there’s something psychically that happens, like I exist, I’m alive,” said Mitchell of the release in July. 

Sprialled by Seana Gavin

Seana Gavin’s Spiralled also provides a fascinating insight into the underground rave scene of the 1990s. Gavin’s images capture the messy joys of the acid house community the artist became part of as a teenager, collating images of friends and party-goers across France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic, and the UK. “The book takes you on a journey of emotions through that period in my life,” says Gavin. “I hope it will give people a sense of what it was like to be immersed in that scene.”

YOUTH by Luo Yang

Luo Yang began her tender ongoing series in Youth in 2018, after completing a decade-long project documenting the “bold, wild and true” young women of China, as she too grew up alongside them. Now in her thirties, Yang’s Youth focuses on not only women, but also young men and non-binary Gen-Z individuals in China who are bravely rejecting societal norms in search of their own identity. 

Love’s Labour by Sergio Purtell

Published by Stanley/Barker this July, Purtell’s book compiles languid images of long, hot summer days and endless evenings spent travelling across Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Though most of the images are of strangers the Chilean photographer met on his travels, Love’s Labour radiates a distinct intimacy and romance which perfectly capture the carefree spirit of the summer season.  

Ibiza ’89 by Dave Swindell

Transporting you to the hedonistic shores of Ibiza in the summer of 1989, Dave Swindell’s new IDEA-published monograph captures the island moments before the dawn of rave. Capturing heady scenes of sweaty dancefloors, daring 80s outfits, and parties at sunrise, the book is a love letter to the innocence and magical possibility of the island before its popularity exploded.

Morocco by Ilyes Griyeb

French-Morrocan photographer Ilyes Griyeb’s debut photo book captures the divided youth of Morocco’s Meknès region. Shot in bright, saturated hues, Griyeb’s images capture both the modest young people taking on the region’s traditional values and agricultural trades, and those conversely seeking the capitalist treasures of an Americanised dream.

Uniform by Kacey Jeffers

Blending fashion and documentary photography, model-turned-photographer Kacey Jeffers’ book Uniform documents the school children of the island of Nevis in the Caribbean, where the image-maker himself grew up. “When I photograph Black people, it has to come from something deep and authentic,” Jeffers told AnOther. “I am looking within for intimacy, presence, and a connection to something other than the physical to capture the essence of that person.”

Lola & Pani Studio Portraits 2015-2020 by Lola & Pani

Swapping their usual settings of the great outdoors for a stripped-back studio, photographic duo Lola & Pani’s recent project comprises a series of quietly beautiful portraits of east London’s bright young things. “We just hope that they feel comfortable and leave with a feeling of self-confidence; like someone took the time to appreciate them for who they are.”