Hastings is a seaside town on the UK's south coast, widely known for its black huts, pebbly beach and constant influx of weekend visitors looking for "authentic" fish and chips, as if dunking a fish in some oil is more authentic there than anywhere else in the world. If you find yourself in the town on a weekday, however, you'll most likely be confronted with a completely different picture. Despite all its tourism, Hastings is still 19th on the list of the UK's poorest towns.
A lot of families move from to London to Hastings because it's cheap, on-the-sea and has that quaint, charming thing going for it that Walthamstow doesn't. Yet, what these families fail to take into account is that Hastings lacks any concrete industry for their offspring to be absorbed into, meaning the town is buzzing with youth who are all too skint, bored and pissed off with rising higher education fees to do anything with their lives. On top of all that misery, the government recently announced a number of cuts that would affect youth centres all across the country.
In response to that, photographer Amanda Jobson and I decided to approach one of Hastings' youth centres, Xtrax, and start working on a series of photographic workshops aimed at 16 to 21 year olds. We started by teaching the kids about the work of people that have spent their lives looking at youth culture, then gave them analogue cameras and rolls of black and white film, encouraging them to take pictures of their lives and the places they frequented on the lazy sunny days the tourists never see. As we processed the films together at the local Sussex Coast College, I remembered how much my art tutors hated it when I wrote on my photos about how I felt, so I asked my students to do exactly that. I felt that, in the world of emails and text messages, seeing people’s handwriting can be inspiring, interesting and even important.
These photographs are about to be exhibited at Hastings Museum. If you live around the area, or feel like becoming part of its tourism, I'd suggest you go and have a look. Hopefully, amongst them, you'll find a couple of tomorrow's visionary photographers.
Hidden Youth opens next Friday, September 28, and will run through the 4th of November.
Opening Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm and Sunday 12 Noon - 5pm at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Bohemia Road, Hastings, TN34 1ET
More Kids' stuff:
And one for the olds: