Relive the intimacy of youth with Leo Adef’s photography
Adolescence and youth are the central themes in Argentinian photographer Leo Adef’s work. Featuring a range of young men on the brink of adulthood, Adef’s photography paints an intimate, though often isolating, picture of growing up.
“I work with themes and feeling that I have inside of me,” Adef explains. “And I aim to explore them, and turn them into something creative. Almost everything I’ve worked on lately is related to adolescence, masculinity and intimacy.”
According to Adef, sexuality also plays a “more than important role” in his work, and can be seen particularly in photos that depict two boys together, often in a state of partial undress. Though these photos are not overtly sexual, they show a tension between the subjects, and in some cases, such as when the boys are staring directly at the camera, between the viewer too.
Twenty-five year old Adef grew up in Buenos Aires but moved to Barcelona when he was twenty-two. But his passion for his work started long before then. “I remember when I was thirteen, I discovered that by connecting an old home-video camera, a VHS player and a stereo, I could start to edit videos and experiment with images,” he says. “I think that from that moment, I never stopped doing it.”
The boys in Adef’s photos are rarely fully accessible to the viewer. They appear with their backs to the camera, cloaked in shadows, or in one case, with their face entirely obscured by flowers. There is less a sense of youthful abandon to be found here and more a creeping sensation of loneliness.
“I work a lot with the vision I had when I was a teenager and one of the feelings that I remember from that time is the sensation of loneliness,” Adef says. “This exercise, of searching for young guys and meeting them, now that I no longer am one, has allowed me to meet a lot of guys, hear thousands of stories, learning a lot of things about them and also about myself.”
This entire process, from finding his models to photographing them, serves as a form of catharsis for Adef. “The search for these teenagers has a lot to do with a search for myself, with my adolescence and the idealized vision that I had of these sort of guys when I was a teenager. I saw guys like this and wanted to be like them. Now that I’m a little older and more mature, I have learnt to distance myself from all these ideas but I decided to keep working on that space of transition and deconstruction, in which melancholy, fantasy and trauma all coexist.”
Aside from photography, Adef is a keen filmmaker. His short films explore the same themes as his photography, focusing on intimacy, loneliness and growing up. His favourite so far is entitled ‘Manifesto’. “It works best as a declaration of my vision and the themes that I show,” he says. “It was the first video that I published after having worked for a few years without showing anything and from then on I haven’t stopped creating.”