Ewen Spencer: Guapa-mente Issue 01

Guapa-mente Issue 01, Ewen Spencer’s latest attempt to perforate Europe’s spirited youth culture, takes us to Naples and, through his staple aesthetic diet of the intimate and fleshy, we are let into a space of existence that is both perceptible and incomprehensible. 

We have all been a ‘youth culture’ of some kind; lumped, once upon a time into a category of living that the rest of society insists upon scrutinising and sometimes interrogating. Wherever they thrive and survive, the young will never escape that. Nor necessarily should they; it’s that dissection of their lives, by their sometimes (and inevitably) hypocritical peers, that breeds the very vitality with which their culture flourishes. Spencer’s images allow us to glimpse that vitality. And, just like an appreciation of the young can only really be achieved through the acceptance that all you will ever see is a glimpse, the same is true of Guapa-mente.

At a glance, the images might collectively convey or help fan the flames of a stereotype; the nonchalant, drink and drug, party obsessed youth of Europe. And, there are elements of that. There are alpha males, Mohawks, three to a bike night time scooter rides, regrettable tattoos (“You are my dream”), spliffs, snogging and general egotistical performances. But beneath that façade are the quieter moments; moments of individual self-reflection, evident in even the most dominant of characters. There are tender moments between friends, most of whom are still busy trying to figure out what the hell being tender actually means. And, there is fun; unshakable, unashamedly in-your-face fun. These two different perceptions of the youth, the easily reached (and not always wrong) stereotype and the deeper, ultimately more important connotation of what it really means to be young and the fight to find your place in the world, is where the images collide. 

In his dynamic and well-written, but frustratingly short essay to accompany the series, Gary Warnett grapples, like most of us do, with his own understanding of youth culture. In an almost nostalgic tone, he states that: “The youth live it, then self-awareness ruins it and the rest of us bask in an increasingly rose tinted vision of the past being better.” It’s that sentiment, of the old guard looking in their rear view mirror, which ultimately gives these images their potency. They are a look into a past that we’ve all experienced, and we’ve all lost. 

Guapa-mente Issue 01 is produced by ES Books in conjunction with We Folk, designed by Yukiko in Berlin and is printed as an edition of 300 copies. The zine will be part of a series of two per year, all priced just £5. Available from: http://www.ewenspencer.com/blog/archives/3750


— Matthew Oxley