by: Elsa Herri
New York City native Sophie Day has created something fascinating out of what is usually overlooked as the city’s ordinary. At twenty years old, Day has had her work featured in Vogue, i-D, and Vice. Her shots of skaters and friends, graffitied blocks and bare apartments, shine a revealing, yet exalting light on growing up in New York. Her work is gritty, sunny, and candid. Ugly, romantic, theatrical, and tough. Day’s focus on an unfiltered youth highlights all the little eccentricities of a culture she is intimate with and captivated by. An especially poignant image she captured was an up close photograph of a handshake-- an intimate gesture unique to the duo, under a glorifying warm light. The photograph admires the small and intricate greeting intuitive to those raised here. A clip from her documentary film “Fuckboy” shows a group of teenaged boys standing on a street corner, engaged in a conversation riddled with slang that may as well be their own native tongue. It’s their territory, their language, their handshakes that Day manages to capture most beautifully.
As she shifts the lens to herself, much of Day’s work becomes ownership and exploration of sexuality. “It's sweet to be your own muse. Your body, sexuality, and agency all belong to you and who you choose to share it with! Taking some self portraits today and [I am] excited to be in control of how I represent myself” she writes under an Instagram selfie. The pictures of herself are sultry, awkward, sexy, and unflattering all at once; a strikingly sincere and unpolished portrait of what it means to own your sexuality.
Meanwhile, the radical shots of her topless female friends radiate confidence and give her subjects the power to reclaim their bodies and sexuality in a world where the female body is constantly scrutinized and censored. The subdued, sun-soaked pictures are sophisticated and triumphant, a liberating step forward for the subjects to open up about their insecurities and embrace their bodies. All that girls are typically taught to hide-- hairy legs, un-airbrushed bodies, and self-confidence-- are put on a natural, exhilarating display.
Day even extends the conversation on sexuality to boys in “Fuckboy”, where she takes a close look at how western ideals of masculinity have shaped the young skaters around her and ultimately their relationships with girls. The documentary explores what she calls the “constant performance” of masculinity. This is the show that the teenage boys put on for each other, adorned with all the stereotypical details of boyhood: smoking, drinking, bedroom posters, graffiti, and crude language. While she started off working mostly with girls, the conversation Day wants to have simply isn’t complete without the boys.
One of her more recent projects, “Wet Dreams Zine”, is an anonymous compilation of nudes and fantasies. The zine, which anyone can contribute to, is an open and unapologetic foray into the secrecy of wet dreams. Volume 2 is set to come out soon, and she recently had her first solo show in Los Angeles. Day’s work, captivating and blunt, reminds me of what keeps New York so vivacious and constantly pushing boundaries.