Image: from Teenagers by Ewen Spencer
He graduated in 1997 in Editorial Photography BA(Hons) and quickly became known for his groundbreaking editorial style for The Face and Sleazenation magazines. He immediately spoke to an audience interested in subcultures, multiculturalism, music, graphic art, photography, fashion and primarily youth culture.
In 2001 Ewen embarked upon a project simply called Teenagers, documenting British adolescents as they come to terms with socialising, dating and sex. His signature flash style became synonymous with a close aspect to his subjects.
What separates him from other social-documentarians is the feeling that he knows and likes his subjects, that they trust him enough to allow him entry and that he has an understanding of what’s going on without being embedded in the scenes himself.
The Teenagers project was shown at the Exposure photo festival in Hereford, UK in 2001, as part of ‘Jam London –Tokyo’ showing at both the Barbican in London and the Tokyo Opera House Gallery and was also exhibited at the Rencontre d’Arles in 2004, curated by Martin Parr, where it was shortlisted for an project assistance award.
In 2002 Martin Parr tipped Spencer as the most promising newcomer of that year. Commercial clients starting calling and he began working with bands producing cover art and behind the scenes tour material for The Streets and The White Stripes. He is sought after his quick, precise, spontaneous, collaborative style with a great eye for what’s current, on trend and in line with brand objectives.
Spencer continues to pursue his interest in teen culture and in 2005, completed a series of images taking a look at a group of teenagers involved in London’s ‘Grime’ Scene. The project has come to fruition through the publishing of a book and a touring exhibition called ‘Open Mic.’Works from which have been included in the Courtauld Institute of Arts, Musee d’Elysee in Lausanne and many private collections throughout Europe.
The book Open Mic was awarded a yellow pencil certificate by the D&AD in 2005 for Photographic publishing and it remains one of the best examples of Spencer’s work to date. It led to him being awarded a commission by Massive Attack in 2010 to produce a short film concerning ideas around cultural pluralism and gangs in Britain.