Behind the picture with Britta Burger

As a photographer on the interface of art, subculture, social criticism and style, Britta Burger’s images tell stories of different people and places. On the eve of the opening of her exhibition at the ACF London, she shares with us the back story of one of her favourite photos:

Jay on Margate Beach
Jay on Margate Beach

I met 17-year-old Jay while I was shooting a documentary style fashion story about football fans for a World Cup special of Austria’s broadsheet Der Standard. We’d gone down to my assistant’s hometown Ramsgate to streetcast teenage boys there.

I thought Jay would be great for an advertorial shoot I was planning with a major British sportswear brand, the clothes were based on 1960s football kits. But the label’s marketing team didn’t feel Jay was ‘aspirational’ enough for their brand image. I was annoyed and decided to shoot Jay anyway, for Flux magazine.

It was during the summer holidays, but Jay told me he never goes on holidays, plus he was on tag, so free to shoot anytime. We decided to meet up in a beach house in Margate and to just hang out there and walk around the town and down to the beach and shoot. I went on my own to make the shoot as relaxed as possible and just took a suitcase full of clothes and my cameras.

The sea looked beautiful so I asked Jay to take his shoes off and go in. I knew the tag on his leg would be visible, but once I saw it and noticed how awkward he was all of a sudden I almost didn’t want to take pictures of it. Not only because I didn’t want to glorify crime or teenage wannabe gangsters, but because it really didn’t seem like it was a lot of fun, or something to show off about for Jay. But from a distance – visible but surrounded by water – it just felt like a part of life it really was.

Britta Burger: Fashion and Photography is on display at the ACF London from 11 February – 2 April 2015.

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