Capturing Youth Subculture with Ewan Waddell

Photographer and cinema undergrad Ewan Waddell currently in the UK graces SEMI ZINE with his editorial photographic work. Ewan's work reveals a subjective, inside truth about youth subculture. He follows the lo-fi hip-hop scene capturing intimate portraits as he forms strong relationships with his subjects. His work is the unapologetic subjective view of Ewan Waddell. More recently he's explored Bulgaria as a hitchhiker and has created a new body of work from that experience. We loved his approach to photographic practice - creating a pseudo 'natural' look through the pose and expression of models and reflecting an inside perception of modern day youth in the pursuit of 'truth'. His work reminds us of artists like Nan Goldin and Davide Sorrenti - that very human, very natural editorial and fashion look in photography. He highlights the beauty of very real people. 

Tell us more about you and your artwork.

Well I’m a student and I study Cinema at Leeds University in the UK. That takes up a lot of my time to be honest, but my main motivations at the moment are creating visuals within fashion and documentary genres – and also producing publications.

What work inspires or has inspired you?

I’m really creatively inspired by lo-fi hip-hop at the moment. My favourite artist is a guy from London called Looms. I also really like the non-fiction work of George Orwell. He inspires me in the sense that he keeps his writing style very simplistic and very authentic – I would hope that his influence on me is reflected in my approach.

In terms of aesthetic inspirations it’s hard for me to narrow it down. I could probably name like thirty photographers off the top of my head who are all undeniably sick – but I’ll just name one. The top of my list at the moment is probably Kimberly K. Canales-Ascui. The way she’s able to shoot both fashion photos and documentary images to such a high level is personally something I find very motivating to see. A lot of photographers specialise in one area of photography, but she shows that you don’t have to, and that you can do pretty much whatever the fuck you want to as long as you try hard.

Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why?

I like the way a lot of photographers are using film at the moment. A lot of people class it as a ‘regression’, suggesting that people are going back to film photography from digital, but I’ve personally encountered a lot of kids who’ve grown up during this so called ‘regression’ to film and have therefore never even shot digital in the first place. I think this is really cool as it allows younger people to discover photography in its original, analogue form, and probably creates a much greater respect for the art form as a result.

Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?

Truth. From minor to major details, I kind of like to think I reflect truth in my work.

In my fashion photography I almost always ask the model to look straight into the lens, as otherwise I often feel that it’s too posey and fake; trying to fool the viewer into thinking that it’s a candid shot. When the model is interacting with the lens, and therefore by extension the viewer, I feel that it treats them more as a human with an identity, rather than a lifeless mannequin I’m commanding to ironically look ‘natural’.

When editing essays, articles or interviews of which I am not the original creator, I like to change as little as possible. Even if I feel like I could have articulated an idea slightly better, I like to maintain the original author’s voice as much as possible.

Your photography really combines portraiture and fashion well. Looking at it reminds me of past greats like Nan Goldin and Davide Sorrenti. You capture that great culture and youth feeling. What is your relationship with your models? Are they personal friends or a hired model you get to know?

Thank you, that means a lot. If I was able to create a body of work as strong as theirs by the end of my career, then I’d be pretty happy.

In answer to your question – it massively varies. At the start of last year I was using my friends a lot more as models when clothing brands would send me stuff to shoot, but nowadays I’m in a lot more situations where I’m working with professional models. That being said, there’s a few models that I’ve met on shoots who I now consider good friends, and who I make a point to work with as much as possible.

Do you have any interesting projects that you’re working on at the moment?

I’m currently putting together a book reflecting on struggles of the modern youth, and I’ll be featured in an exhibition in Leeds about a similar topic, and then a few weeks later I have my first solo-exhibition in Birmingham. I’ve also recently been trying to collect my thoughts together to produce a travel-diary/photo-essay kind of thing revolving around a recent trip I took hitchhiking through Bulgaria.

View his work here.