I think that Instagram has made the younger generation so much more self-aware, and expectant of people to see what they’re doing and how they look.
In this series, contributor Georgia Graham brings together a group of her friends on the advent of their 30th year.
Since moving to New York, there have been two primary objects of my affections; my friends, and the city itself. Thus in creating a project from the heart, it seemed immediately obvious that these two elements should take centre stage.
Just as in a relationship, it is my friends who have helped me navigate the moments of infatuation and frustration that characterise my affair with New York City. Coincidentally, this year sees many of my closest friends celebrating their 30th. Between us, age is something we discuss a lot. New York is often compared to Neverneverland, a playground where one never truly has to grow up. Empowering as this can be, it is also a crippling ally to popular culture’s unhealthy obsession with youth. At 24, these friends are people I look to often for advice and information, the kind that they have accumulated in the years that separate us in age.
I decided to conduct the following interviews as a means of celebration and examination; celebrating these individuals, their creative minds and experiences, whilst also examining the idea of age and the concept of living in New York. The accompanying photo series was shot by Mitchell McLennan. Like the friends I have asked him to photograph, he is both an artist I admire and a friend I cherish.
Anna and I met on a shoot in Sydney, after which she invited me to her birthday party. I showed up alone, knowing no one, and spent the first hour conversing with the snacks table and pretending to need the bathroom and/or a lighter. Luckily, I survived this awkward hour of social purgatory, and from that night on we were fast friends.
Now my neighbour in New York, Anna feeds me, clothes me, and is a regular cultural counsellor and general rock. She also has immaculate, interesting taste and an irritating knack for sniffing out vintage Helmut Lang.
Despite all this, one of the things I admire most is her ability to be both an incredible creative and also a conscientious, kind human being. She is environmentally savvy without being preachy, and can routinely be found at home watching niche 80s movies, feeding her friends and fermenting her own kombucha.
Do you remember at what age you really became interested in fashion and styling? What were the catalysts?
It was more a realisation that came about through a lot of other artistic media that had nothing to do with fashion. Even when I started styling I didn’t even know what it was, or why I wanted to do it. I was always doing other things at school; art history, film development, nude drawing, which culminated in a really round about way in an interest in styling and fashion.
How do you look at your twenties as a whole?
It’s a good 10 years of figuring yourself out. Whilst I don’t think you ever really stop doing that, you’re past teenage angst and feeling awkward with yourself, and coming into your own. Experimenting socially, figuring out your sexuality and your identity; who you are and where you fit in to everything. 30 feels like you’ve got it a bit more sorted.
Makes going into 30 feel better.
How has living in New York changed your tastes and your work attitude?
I definitely have a lot more fun in New York dressing in a personal sense. I feel like you can put anything on and change [your look] every single day.
As for my work attitude, New York makes you work in a much harder, faster, disciplinary, ordered way. People expect and ask so much more of you here that you can’t be chill about it sometimes. I mean, it’s a balance! You can still be chill but you also have to get your act into gear.
Can you see the difference in the work you are producing? Do you think it is only New York, or do you think this has to do with age too?
As a creative, your work is an extension of your sense of self and your identity. So anything that affects you as a person then affects your work, whether it’s environment or circumstance, or people or age.
I feel like New York pushes you to produce work of a certain standard because there are so many people here that are right next to you also trying to produce work and make a place for themselves. It’s an energy and pressure that makes you really examine what it is you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Some of the best people in our industry exist here and having those people around you definitely pushes you to work that much harder.
Do you think that Instagram has played a part in the current obsession with youth?
Youth is something people have always been fascinated by, but I don’t think it’s been able to be examined so readily on such a wide and international scale. I think that Instagram has made the younger generation so much more self-aware, and expectant of people to see what they’re doing and how they look.
Subcultures still exist, but not in the very specific way that they used to, because those groups formed without knowing that they were being influenced by anyone else. Now there is this sense of globalisation, that everything is connected and borrowed from everywhere. Think about punks – there were versions of punks all over the world. In Melbourne there was this group called “sharpies” who were this very niche group. I’m sure they knew that punks existed in England, but their’s was still a very specific culture that operated around their environment, not because they were checking the Instagram accounts of other people. It existed more in its own microcosm of culture.
Do you find that themes of age play into your work as a creative?
Yeah, I feel really fascinated by it. Age is so indicative of specific things, specific experiences or lack of experiences and I think that that’s such an amazing thing to explore in a visual sense.
Who influences you?
Not to sound totally cheesy but I get so excited about everything that all of our mates are doing around us. That makes me feel really excited and proud. We are so incredibly lucky to have so many amazing friends that are so talented and it’s a kind of self-perpetuating and driving thing.
“I feel like the individual choices we make are the only things we can control, so why not take control of that and be as positive and impactful as you can be?”
Whose work do you admire and why?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Walter Pfeiffer and Collier Schorr. They have a really amazing way in which they approach and examine their subjects and what they draw from them. Walter is really incredible because his work feels so personal, because he photographs his friends and lovers. I think that’s when you get the most honest work, when something is held so close to you that you can’t reveal anything else but something that is so intimate and personal.
Where do you go for reference?
I think you can find reference anywhere. I used to carry around a notebook and just jot down things that would come into my brain, whether it be someone that I met or saw, or a colour, a texture, an experience I had. There’s so much that happens around us that has nothing to do with fashion that your brain forgets unless you tell it to specifically remember. It’s really good to go back and read those things – sometimes you just find a pile of random things you’re drawn to, but sometimes you find this amazing continuity and interconnectedness between them.
Film is also one of my favourite places to find reference. I have folders and folders of screen grabs of films that I’ve watched. I think that there’s something so amazing about capturing a still moment in a moving image, whether it’s colour, composition, character.
You’re someone I greatly admire because you have a strong sense of social responsibility. You care a lot about the environment and live in a very mindful way. Have you always been this way?
My parents set a very good example of how to be conscious in a way that is not overbearing, but is rather just a part of our life that makes sense. My dad used to grow all our own food and I’ve grown up my whole life composting. I feel like the individual choices we make are the only things we can control, so why not take control of that and be as positive and impactful as you can be?
Interview by Georgia Graham
Photography by Mitchell Mclennan