Oliver Kruger never set out to find the heart of South Africa’s urban cool, but that’s precisely what he did when a friend invited him to STR.CRD, a showcase of local street culture held in Johannesburg’s trendy Newtown precinct. The photographs in his book, “Golden Youth,” which L’Artiere published this year, are selected from the nearly 300 portraits he made of the event’s “bright, enthusiastic and very often flamboyant” attendees over three years.
“There was a sense of pageantry, not to coincide with festivals or parades, but an instinctual and everyday sort,” Kruger said via e-mail.
Composed with consistent studio lighting and a neutral backdrop, the photos in “Golden Youth” comprise a cross-section of Johannesburg’s hip denizens. Kruger was drawn to the individual choices that made his subjects’ looks unique, but ultimately he was more interested in capturing the spirit of youthful energy they shared rather than cataloguing the differences in their fashions.
“They definitely combine elements of history, African and colonial, with a pop culture nostalgia, and those stylistic elements that Johannesburg has embraced in the past and present. It’s a little indefinable, but once you’ve been there, you’ll not mistake their style,” he said.
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