Counterculture. In Young New York Ethan James Green shoots delicate portraits full of honesty.

Published by Aperture in April, Young New York is Ethan James Green’s first monograph.

I spent a few days with Ethan on a road trip in 2015 and was so inspired by the poetic quality of his work that a year later I asked him to shoot the cover of my novel Wildchilds.

What impacted me the most was that, as a photographer’s agent for over three decades, I had lived the struggles of the artists I represented as they fought to follow their vision, suffering with them as, inevitably, they were forced to compromise on their art. Young photographers need assignments from magazines in order to get tear sheets and validation, and they need to shoot for certain brands in order to pay the rent. Most of the times they paint themselves into a corner; it is painful to watch. But unlike everyone else I knew, Ethan was posting, unedited, to Instagram; a constant flow of beautiful and unbridled monochromatic images that were his and his alone. Ethan did not need to dilute his vision because he was not trying to please. He was also aware of the time it could take to build a name, but he was patient: he did not want to become a 15-minute star. Month after month he published on his feed, gathering an eager audience of fans and followers, unburdened; creating a distinct and even style, his unique photographic language and narrative intact.

I admired his constancy; his independence and freedom. In the end, he was right.

Marcs Goldberg on the cover of Young New York. Photograph by Ethan James Green

Born in Michigan, Ethan came to New York as a teenager to become a model, eventually starring in campaigns for Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs. After working for the celebrated downtown photographer David Armstrong, and under his mentorship, he swapped modeling for photography, shooting his close circle of friends and collaborators, as well as casting in the streets.

Like with the seedy, sexy and gritty subjects of David Armstrong, or in the raw strangeness of Diane Arbus’ originals, Ethan soon acquired his own visual language and photographic voice, inspired by the particular beauty, nonconformism and energy of his models and that of the community he embraced.

Torraine. 2015

Ethan’s portraits are impactful in their simplicity, bringing a sense of serene dignity to his subjects. The haunting portraits in Young New York, are intimate studies of the kids that flock to the city to live their dreams, presenting “a selection of striking portraits of New York’s millennial scene-makers, a gloriously diverse cast of models, artists, nightlife icons, queer youth, and gender binary–flouting muses of the fashion world and beyond.” (Aperture.org)

His muse, the model Dara Allen writes on Instagram:

“This is one of many (portraits) that captures the simultaneous self-assurance and uncertainty of being young in New York right now. Every page gives me chills.”

Dara. 2017

Ethan shoots for AnOtherAnother ManApertureArena Homme+DazedLOVESystem, Vogue HommeVogue ItaliaVogue ParisW and WSJ. Magazine. His work has been commissioned by AdidasAlexander McQueenDiesel Black GoldDiorFendiHelmut Lang and Miu Miu… 

From Michael Shulman’s beautiful piece in The New Yorker: “They come to New York City every week, in buses and trains and cars, carrying bags, carrying ambitions, carrying the fabulous clothes on their backs. They’re the fashion kids, the art kids, the theatre kids, the who-knows-what kids—creative renegades of nineteen or twenty or twenty-five. They’ve heard what we’ve all heard: that downtown is dead, that the rent is too damn high, that someone has paved paradise and put up a Duane Reade. Still, they keep coming, against all odds, tricked out in spangles, torn shirts, and tattoos, seeking a place where they can find themselves, and one another.

Peter and Stevie. 2018

“Ethan James Green, a photographer and former model, was one of them. Then he became one of their more stylish chroniclers. Born in 1990, Green is a counterculture portraitist, alive to a New York that still feels, somehow, like a freewheeling Wild West. His subjects—musicians and designers and all manner of “creatives”—are emissaries from a generation that has bushwhacked new expanses of gender expression and been reared on the self-curating powers of social media.

“When Green began his project—which is collected in the new book from Aperture “Young New York”—he was a self-described lone wolf, looking for friends. He found them at clubs, at fashion shows, and online. He would invite them to pose for portraits, usually at Corlears Hook Park, where the Lower East Side meets the East River. Green’s subjects are often in states of transition, whether the transition from youth to adulthood or a gender transition, visible in top-surgery scars or budding breasts. Transitions render people vulnerable, but Green’s subjects are confidently beautiful, masters of style and attitude.” Read the rest of Michael Schulman’s article.

Matt. 2016

All images by Ethan James Green. Courtesy of Aperture.org

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