These photographs portray a year in the life of a young man from Brighton. A young person whose life has been subtlely shaped by certain political ideas and by an era in English history. An era that our new government claims has left us with an unprecedented public debt and a social welfare system that encourages young people to live off state handouts.
It started out as a story about teenage gangs in Brighton but I was told that there weren't really any gangs in Brighton so I had to shrink it down.
But I think the story is really about adolescence and the end of childhood and responsibility. During this time one sees a struggle within a person and a often conflict between this person and his/her environment. Society has got it in for adolescents. They have a hard time. I am not saying teenage tearaways are saints or do not deserve any of the suspicion aimed at them by grown-ups. I am saying that they represent an essential stage in human development and should be treated with the respect that an understanding of this affords them. History has thrown up a succession of societal teen spectres: teddy boys, mods, rockers, ravers, lager louts, hoodies and chavs. None of them have brought society to its knees and the individuals concerned grew up and straightened out and probably ended up pushing a pram down some street.
Of course this story is actually about Osca and his struggle as an individual to find a way through this stage of his life. He is benefit dependent and has a long criminal record. How he is managing his life is a matter of opinion. As is the role of the state in its support of him through these times. Is the state, in propping this young man up, merely encouraging his dependent lifestyle or is it effectively playing a supportive role to one of its own to sustain him through hard times? What is the role of the state in supporting this young man in his relationship with his community? One's answers to these questions
will I suspect be informed by one's ideology. Ideologies that will become increasingly polarised as the new government begins to show its hand and as a new era unfolds.
I photographed Osca for about a year. He allowed me almost unfettered
access to his life and I met him once or twice a week. Towards the end of the year he received a custodial sentence from Brighton Court and was sent to Feltham Young Offenders Institution for 3 weeks. He was released on election day, May 2010. It struck me as being a good point to end the project. On the same day that the country was making a decision about its future, so too was Osca. I picked him up from Feltham and conducted an video interview with him and his Father in a cafe just by the prison.
I would like to thank Osca for his time, trust and great understanding of the project. I would also like to thank all of Oscaâ€™s friends that allowed me to photograph as well as Jo Bates, Philip Berman and Charlie Batho.