Fumi Nagasaka has been photographing youth culture in its myriad forms for more than a decade. Now based in New York City, she was born and raised in Japan. "I grew up in a few different places when I was a kid because of my dad’s job. He used to be a professional race car driver so we moved between Nagoya, where both my parents are from, and Tokyo. I was a quiet kid, very into sports, and I got bullied for a time too. That phase was really formative for me." Nagasaka’s teenage experiences, and the isolation she felt, fed into her enduring pull towards the specific passage of time between childhood and adulthood. Life carries you forward at an uneasy pace when you’re a teenager, doesn’t it? Nagasaka has always found the ways that different people navigate it fascinating.
Nagasaka’s first photobook, Dreaming Till The Sun Goes Down, was self-published in 2008. It followed the lives of three boys from three different cities (west London, Ålesund and Berlin), documenting each of them in their home environments. She went on to publish Untitled Youth in 2016, a collection of simple portraits she had made over a seven-year period. Now, Nagasaka has turned her attention to a new project, and a brand new book, entitled Teenage Riot. This time, she’s honed in on four girls from different parts of the globe.
"For Untitled Youth I wanted to focus on the simple and honest beauty of youth. I wanted to photograph something we adults are missing because we’ve grown up and just don’t have it anymore; purity, probably. My vision was to try to follow a thread back to that. Teenage Riot became a natural next step because of those previous projects." Slipping into her subjects’ lives, she’d ask them to take her to their spaces and show her their way of doing things. With touching sensitivity, Nagaska built connections with each of the girls, becoming close to them in the process. "The girls have a lot to say but at that age you don’t always know the ways to express things yet. We talked a lot as we took photographs. There’s an honesty in the pictures that comes from them trusting I never judged them in any way."
Through Nagasaka’s four subjects – Maxine, Fubuki, Alana and Isabella – we see a moving portrait of what she calls the "quiet riots" of girlhood: the highs and lows, the rapid changes in taste and style, the way identities and relationships are forged and evolve, and the chaotic and poignant inner lives they unravel and narrate to Nagasaka as they move through their teenage years.
Here, Nagasaka introduces us to the girls, and shares some of her favourite experiences with them.