By Hannah Yang

Unafraid, proud, and intent on sharing their story, Gen Z photographers have already made strides in the world. Like Myles Loftin, who landed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list of 2020, has done both editorials and ads, and explores black and queer experiences in his work. Or Lauren Tepfer, who has been featured in multiple magazines and commissioned by companies like Google and Nike. Her images—a cinematic look at suburbia and her friends—are personal and authentic..

These Generation Z photographers thrive on social media, which they use as a platform for their art first and foremost. Apps like Instagram and Flickr have shaped much of Gen Z photography today. Now, it’s much easier to be seen than it was decades ago; Today, younger photographers are discovered on social media every day. Youth photography means using whatever is available, and photographers like these are able to push the limits of what can be achieved, with the aid of platforms that allow for infinite visibility.

The democratization of photography with smartphones and open platforms has also resulted in one of the more diverse groups of photographers so far. And this diversity shows in the images themselves. Gen Z photographers is turning the camera to their own communities with pride and skill. Photography has always been a form of personal expression, a way to communicate, document, and be seen. Generation Z uses this to take on self-portraits, photo activism, and the like. There’s incredible power in simply making a previously unacknowledged person a subject. A teen’s photography, LGBTQ directors, Non-binary directors, WOC directors, WOC photographers, POC directors, POC photographers and youth creatives can be just as powerful as that of an experienced artist or legend.

Perhaps that’s partly why brands and companies have been so eager to employ teen photographers—they have a new eye for what’s beautiful, and they produce work that’s authentic and important. The rise in Gen Z photography in the professional world is also due to the shifting audience: teens are the ones on social media, and they can tell what feels fake or real, new or old, progressive or not. Fashion brand Opening Ceremony recently showed a collection with photographer Quill Lemons, who took portraits of his friends, including the black, transgender, disabled model Aaron Philip, queer activist Adam Eli, and deaf trans artist Chella Man. Google Pixel collaborated with artist MaryV Benoit, who portrayed chosen and queer families. 24-year-old Tyler Mitchell photographed Beyoncé’s Vogue cover. An increased interest in photographers of this generation makes sense.

Gen Z photographers are the future of imagery. They are the bold, fresh eyes looking where others aren’t, continually challenging photography in new ways. Not unlike the photographers before, this generation is shaping what we see as beautiful, and it’s looking a lot more inclusive than it did before. We’re invested in portraying our world and our stories. We are creating the future images, norms, and standards.

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