Themes/Identity: Reppin- A portrait of youth

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D.Waife introduces you to five artists working with different photographic mediums who use their own culture within their field of vision.

Reppin or repping is slang for represent/representing. Thus, reppin is used to indicate that someone is representing something, usually their hometown – Urban Dictionary. 2018

Photography has long had a fascination with the representation of youth and youth culture. Iconic portraits have been captured in all formats from Mary Ellen Mark’s work with Seattle’s street kids to Rineke Djisktra’s video stills of Liverpudlian ravers. Today, that tradition continues across fine art and social media as the photographer’s gaze takes glimpses at the nuances of adolescence and returns with questions about the role nationhood and cultural heritage play in shaping its identities.

Within that tradition, there are a number of artists interested in contributing unheard dialogues to this conversation. Mixing traditions of fine art, reportage and portraiture, their works explore the realities of those whose public image has either been left out or misrepresented in the representation of youth culture.

The following are artists / photographers of note whose work explores these themes:

Featured image credit: Portrait from the ‘Concrete Horseman’ series (2016-7) © Cian Oba-Smith. Courtesy of the artist.


Adama Jalloh

Credit: Portrait from the ‘Love Story’ series (2015-7) © Adama Jalloh. Courtesy of the artist.
The moments captured in Adama Jalloh’s work are a trace of her own nostalgic memory of South London. The strut of kids dressed in their Sunday best, families making weekend trips to the supermarket and the sight of children playing by estate blocks – all are homage’s to her days as a youngster growing up in Peckham’s vibrant cultural diversity. It is here that Jalloh’s intimate viewpoint and rich monochromatic tones make her images a subtle but emblematic account of the details that a migrant generation have contributed the picture of modern Britain.

In 2017, images from Jalloh’s ‘Love Story’ series were shown alongside the work of New York based Photographer Khalik Allah for Photofusion’s ‘Wisdom Cries In The Streets’ exhibition

More of Adama’s work can be seen at


Stephanie C.Nnamani

Credit: ‘Chapel’ (2015) © Stephanie C.Nnamani. Courtesy of the artist.
Stephanie C. Nnamani is a Nigerian writer and visual artist based in New York whose ongoing self-portraiture work is mix of performative portraits and stills predominantly from the streets of her hometown, Enugu. Coloured by hues that draw connections with the everyday dress, light and decor in West Africa, the landscapes in her work form a memorandum to her home, Nigeria; a home familiar to the artist in nostalgia, but made unfamiliar by distance and displacement. These scenes are matched with self – portraits which find the artist in gestures which explore her ‘multiplicity of being’.

The artist’s visual work is supported by written observations on the identity politics facing women of Nigerian heritage. Her essay ‘A Man Is Not a Mirror’ can be found on Medium

Explore more of Stephanie C.Nnamani’s work via her site Teff Theory


Cian Oba-Smith

Credit: Portrait from the ‘Bike Life’ series (2016-7) © Cian Oba-Smith. Courtesy of the artist.
In his series work ‘Concrete Horseman’ and ‘Bike Life’, Cian Oba-Smith brings a calming stillness to the representation of young people who might otherwise find their image masked by negative stereotypes. In both his depictions of Philadelphian horse riders and a group of young dirt bikers from London, his careful steadfast centering, painterly arrangements and pastel skylines present a more reflective and vulnerable portrait of inner city youth.

Explore more of Cian Oba-Smith’s work via his site




Credit: Gucci x Dover Street Market (2017) © Bafic. Video, courtesy of the artist. Gucci, London. Notable names in the wave of auteurs challenging the representation of marginalised groups are Khalil Joseph and Hiro Murai. Within a circle of lesser known auteurs is London based videographer, Bafic. Outside of his video work for artists including Jeshi and Ebenezer, Bafic’s personal projects have revolved around the darker side of London’s cityscape. In a 2017 collaboration with Gucci, Bafic was asked to produce visuals for the brand that would echo elements present in his 2016 ‘Processing Procession’ installation at the London Institute for Contemporary Arts. With that in mind, he set out to create a piece that would “feel like a summary of a day between a guy and a girl in London in the city but will all that information being spat out at once.” The Gucci x Dover Street Market piece can be seen above.

Explore more of Bafic’s work at


Mahtab Hussain

Credit: Portrait from the series ‘You Get Me?’ (2017) © Mahtab Hussain. Courtesy of the artist. Autograph, London.
Mahtab Hussain is a British Asian photographer whose series ‘You Get Me?’ brought attention to the changing image of young, working-class Asian men. Beginning with a frustration at the lack of representation of his peers in photography, the photographer worked over a period of nine years to capture the diverse and new ways Asian men were their projecting their masculinity and religious identities. The series is hallmarked by Hussain’s efforts to blend a high art yet anthropological approach to his shots; one which transforms everyday dress, gestures and habitats into scenes of a renewed impression of Britishness.

Explore more of Mahtab Hussain’s work via his site

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