Stacy Kranitz presents the reader with a window into the minds, hearts, and bodies of post pubescent young men seemingly wallowing and at times being drenched by their own filth in this slice of life documentary style photo book. The word “book” can be used loosely because the genius part of its production is that the book itself adheres to the subject matter. What better way to showcase young men burning cars and getting bloody in midnight mosh pits than by presenting the audience/consumer with an 80 page zine style piece of work that is reminiscent of those cool skate mags of yesteryear? For this photo book in particular the printing style works one hundred percent. It’s compact and full of decadence, not in a devil’s food cake kind of way, but in the “Holy shit, what is that guy on!?” kind of way. If you are of the vanilla sort and expect post pubescent kids on a runway modeling the latest fashions you would be sorely wrong. This book captures a lot of the grossness that comes with a misspent youth, especially one that happens to traipse through Skatopia.
Stacy gives the audience a fly on the wall’s perspective on hardcore youth culture through the photos in this book. Stacy also imbeds herself within the lives of her subjects if only for that split second to capture that one shot of them drinking from a can of soup at sunrise while smoking weed or for that shot of possible regret/indulgence on someone’s face. There are no words or descriptions but only images of carnage and at times violence. The subjects are so fascinating and hard looking that viewing the photos themselves begs the audience to want more insight that they will never get because the work therein captures those fleeting moments of the filthy reality displayed so perfectly.
There are a lot of fantastic captures in this book, which really isolate the tone and mood of this “dystopian” locale in Ohio. Going beyond the book itself it is billed as; “how subculture self-consciously dramatizes violence through daily rituals, habits, and pastimes, thereby implicating the photographer and viewer as consumers of that violence.” This description sets the reader up for something wild, uncontrollable, and visceral. It set me up for absolute carnage and depending on the type of person you are you will either get it or not. Personally, I wanted more carnage and more “violence.” Reading the description and then reading the book at times equaled disappointment because it was always in the back of my mind and awaiting every flip of the page. For me if the book was presented without any description it would have held more weight and as the viewer I would have been more intrigued. It did serve as a reminder to me of lots of kids I grew up with. Those kids I knew have one thing in common with the kids shown in this book. Some of them will outgrow their behavior while others will continually return to Skatopia, as it were, in a figurative sense. I found myself wondering if I cared about these photos or if they made a difference to me if I saw them or not and not just for the purpose of this review. The conclusion I came to was that these photos serve as a window into a world that many of us know nothing about. Stacy went into the belly of a beast and brought us its still beating heart, plopped it on the table, and said, “Deal with it.” If you are faint of heart or conservative in nature then you may flip through this book and immediately turn away only to be so intrigued that you flip through it again. Stacy captures a proverbial car-wreck with these images and try as you might to shield your eyes, you cannot help but look and wonder how these kids got to where they are and why. You may ask yourself “Why should I care about these pictures of trashy teens and their trashy lifestyle?” I’ll tell you why. It’s because they exist. This world exists and in some ways these photos serve as an education to the uninitiated or even as a cautionary tale from those audience members that can feel every bad acid trip bead of sweat, misfired mosh pit elbow, dirty pair of underwear on the dashboard, or car set on fire because there ain’t no one stopping you. There are a lot of subtle nuances in the photos of this book, which warrant flipping back and forth through it to understand the multitude of hidden meanings presented. This book serves as a raw example of a real life that is often ignored.