Young NYC-based Photographers To Follow
BY: Elsa Herri
Today’s most inspiring and influential photographers are barely out of their teens. They are curious and inquisitive, projecting their fantasies and fascinations onto the world around them. It’s easy to develop such a distinct creative sense in a place like New York; there are countless people and scenes to be excited and inspired by. The city inevitably breeds creativity and there’s an increasing focus on young people and what they have to say.
Why all girls? I don’t know. Their pictures are pretty. But their work is also particularly intimate and passionate- girls have a lot to say about the world we live in today.
I was excited to discover the girls I’ve been following on Instagram are developing burgeoning careers in image-making. I selected them because of the unique personal lenses they’ve developed to portray the world around them, and the distinct passions and fascinations that they choose to reveal through their pictures.
“I always see her walking up and down the streets of the Lower East Side, taking pictures all day. I’ll look out my window on Bowery- there goes Liv!” said a friend of hers from the neighborhood. Flipping through “Open Nightly”, Hoffman’s book, published in 2016, it’s evident that this is her world; the street art, hectic crowds, parties, locals, and friends that crowd the realm of downtown Manhattan are her source of inspiration. Hoffman’s work is deeply rooted in her surroundings; “I was born and raised in the Lower East Side. From a young age I was exposed to an explosion of art, graffiti, nightlife, all things in which I implement into my personal art practice,” she tells me one Thursday night at an East Village gallery opening (a setting that is very much her element). This “explosion” of life is instantly recognizable in Hoffman’s pictures. Whether she’s shooting a party at China Chalet with the likes of Luka Sabbat and Eileen Kelly, or getting up-close portraits of Chinatown vendors, Hoffman captures nearly juxtaposing subjects in a harmonious, unified gaze. They are all are seen through her black and white, high contrast, and gritty yet romantic lens, that contributes to the feelings of timelessness and motion that the pictures elicit. They are romantic and sentimental amongst the chaos, celebration, and fast-paced lifestyle that one can quite literally feel as they look through Hoffman’s photographs. Documenting a variety of themes such as urban decay, homelessness, partying, graffiti, and relationships, her most notable work consistently manages to be raw and honest while revealing an element of romance and nostalgia. Hoffman has a great eye for capturing these intimate moments in an incredibly dynamic and chaotic world. Hoffman began photographing the streets of Bowery from a young age. “In high school I felt lost and slightly insecure because I felt like I wasn’t good at anything. I observed my friends and peers finding their passions, making things happen for themselves,” she explained of her early years. “When I discovered photography, my life became more vibrant. I started taking photos of graffiti in my neighborhood which then led to portraiture”. Aptly titled “Bowery Babe”, Hoffman had her second solo show last summer, dedicated to the photographer’s fascination and discovery of life on the Bowery. She recently collaborated with graffiti artist KATSU on a virtual reality project for VICE, and later caught the attention of rapper Juicy J in VICE’s “The Offensive” zine contest. Currently, Hoffman is working on a series about social norms and expectations at parties called “AT THE FUNCTION”. It’s her keen eye for honesty and beauty, her appreciation for the explosive vibrancy of the city, and her unique lens into the world of New York that will make Hoffman’s work some of the most poignant and inspiring of our culture.
Lighting by Lumia Nocito, Photography by Petra Collins
“Well, fuck, now I have to do photography,” she told me about the early high school crisis that came about after realizing that taking pictures was a passion she would have to pursue forever. “I thought I’d just go to an Ivy League or something like that. But then I became hungry to work, to find jobs, to be surrounded by artists. And then I just started hustling”. Lumia Nocito’s work is just as mature and inquisitive as the Cooper Union sophomore herself. Relationships, conversations, intimacy, and people drive her strikingly sophisticated images. The pictures are lively and bleak, aggressive and heartwarming- shadows and vast spaces highlight loneliness, and lighting and expressions elevate the sense of activity, characters, and conversations she manages to capture. They are natural and sincere, speaking greatly to Lumia’s process- “I don’t think about the photograph or how it’ll look. I just see something and take the picture. A teacher told me to shoot with my heart, not my head”. Lumia’s portraits and shots capture a wealth of personality and stories, driven by her fascination for the people she encounters. This very same personality is delivered through her personal work, editorials, and test shots for modeling agency IMG. I sat across Lumia in the small, white, red-lit common room of her dorm. The walls are decorated with a nude of photographer Petra Collins, a pair of handcuffs, and a couple of silver balloons. Against the hum of the Saint Marks Place nightlife and traffic, she spoke to me about middle school bullying, depression, and the beginnings of her burgeoning career. After years of feeling as though she had no hobbies or talents worth pursuing, Lumia’s sister encouraged her to look into photography. She picked up a camera and submitted her work to a Scholastic photo contest. Following two consecutive awards she took some photo classes in high school and began to work. She was introduced to photographer Petra Collins through a modeling gig nearly two years ago, and Collins picked up Lumia as her lighting assistant later that afternoon. Describing Collins as one of her best friends, she later became her personal assistant as well. Since then Lumia has assisted the artist on a range of shoots: from Frank Ocean on the cover of 032c to Bella Hadid for American Vogue. I see her work and projects regularly on my Instagram feed- MILK studios has featured her work, and she models for brands such as Converse and Opening Ceremony. Whether she’s assisting one of our generations greatest photographers or posting pictures of her friends and personal life, Lumia Nocito proves to be one of the most prevalent young artists in the city today.
The sun-soaked glittery dream world of Sophia Wilson’s photography revolves around the 16 year old’s fascination with people- “the way they dress, the shapes of their bodies and faces, and the way that they act fascinates me”, she says. When I asked Wilson why she takes pictures, she explained “it's important for me to include diversity of models (sizes, genders, races, etc.), emotions, and something people have never seen before in my photos. I take photos to make people feel something and to change the world- so basically, for fun!”. The photographs shine a glorifying light on the natural beauty and individuality of her subjects- their undone faces, unconventional features, ambiguity in gender are often the focal point of her whimsical shots. Adding to this very feeling of whimsicality is the sense of movement and deliberately awkward posing frequently featured in her images. The models artfully exaggerate and contort their limbs as they are captured mid-movement, not unlike modern day icon Jamie Hawkesworth. Particularly special is the way Wilson manages to capture her subjects interacting with one another. She creates a subtle sense of intimacy in her pictures, showing a duo wrapped in a childish and languid embrace. The sophisticated yet youthful portraits deliver a number of contrasts- the photos are tough and girly, friendly and intimidating. However what makes Wilson’s work so unique is the harmonious and seamless delivery of these typically contradictory elements. They don’t stand in contrast; rather, these elements work together to create something new and meaningful to our generation. It’s hard to put any kind of label on her photographs, but we’re in a world where we no longer really need to. I ran into Wilson at “The Vintage Twin” store one afternoon as she animatedly told me about her work for VFiles and Opening Ceremony. The teenage photographer has already been featured in publications such as Vice and i-D and spends a great deal of her time shooting and meeting with various agencies and publications. Wilson’s foray into the world of fashion photography has brought something theatrical, innocent, and otherworldly to the industry- “for fun”.