Kas Collective / The Photocopy Club

For BPB14 I was asked to come up with an idea to link collectives and communities together through the photocopy club.

A call out was made asking for photographers to form their own collectives and submit to the theme of community.

One collective that formed was called KAS Collective. A 10 deep group of young photographers from North London. Being based in London and being part of the photography scene here, I was surprised to receive work from such a huge collective of who I knew none of its photographers. The work was young yet strong and featured a collection of images looking at the community they lived in and the friends of the group. Skate kids, Bike Kids, Tough kids, Bad kids and the grey stark architecture of the surrounding tower blocks were the topic of KAS.

One image leapt out at me by photographer Cliff Bevan, of a young boy, maybe around the age of 10, holding a cigarette. In black and white this is an iconic image, an image that has no time. It could have been talking at any point in the last 50 years. A face full of freckles and a haircut of youth, the boy has a stare of cool. Like a young James Dean (but with more of an english angst), his hand is in the perfect motion as it brings the cigarette to his mouth. The little finger slightly raised, which lets the day light, give it the hi-light it needs.

Kids smoking cigarettes in one way is photographic no no. It’s been done. Mary Ellen Mark and the girl in her paddling pool is an image that will stick with me forever. Ed Templeton and his book of Teenage smokers is a beautiful and engaging book on how so much of our youth was spent. Joseph Szabo photographed some of the most iconic images of young smokers in the 60’s and 70’s, a true genius of documenting the beauty of the teenage runaway.

I smoked my first cigarette when I was about 11. We stole a packet of 20 from a friend’s dad and huddled under the slide in the local play park, coughing and spluttering while trying to be the best at it. If only I had been able to document my own youth at that age through the lens. For some children, to smoke is the definition of being bad, being tough, being grown up. This photograph by KAS collective is one of those images that probably won’t, but should, stand the test of time in the photobook of “kids being cool while smoking”.

The Photocopy Club: A Giant Collective is on display at BPB14 and Fitzgerald Square, Newtown, Johannesburg. For more information visit bpb.org.uk/2014

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