Celebrating subcultures

British photographer Owen Harvey creates celebratory visual stories about different subcultures.

Words by

Artdoc

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

In society, people need to fit into a group, which gives them a sense of identity and belonging. This societal need becomes the most visible in subcultures, where members dress differently to separate themselves from the mainstream culture. British photographer Owen Harvey creates celebratory visual stories about different subcultures. His Ground Clearance project got him a Sony World Photography Awards nomination.

For Harvey, subcultures lend themselves well to photography because they are visually attractive and can cause debate among the spectators. “I think good visual art in general, not just photography, needs subjects that can make it strong. Firstly, the subject needs to lend itself visually. Secondly, you need the ability to catch emotion in the pictures. Emotive subjects always help. Thirdly, you need it to be contentious to cause conversation. Niche groups have a history to them, and they can create a conversation around the topic. I'm most interested in how people find a sense of belonging in these different communities. I use these different subcultures or niche cultures to explore and use that as a vehicle to find those places.”

Sign up now

Join for access to all issues, articles and open calls
Already have an account? Sign in

Payment Failed

Hey there. We tried to charge your card but, something went wrong. Please update your payment method below to continue reading Artdoc Magazine.
Update Payment Method
Have a question? Contact Support
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

Asking questions

Even though Owen Harvey has a stance towards his subjects, his photographic work doesn't necessarily have to give answers. It can raise questions for the viewer. “What I'm interested in is, first and foremost, making visual stories that people want to engage with. But, if those stories can cause conversation and open a room to critically engage with them on some level, that makes the story stronger and more interesting. Then the work gets more layers to it, and it's not just looking at it on the surface level of things, but going a bit deeper into that subject.”

On Harvey's website, his brief statement says: “I create celebratory visual stories about people.” He explains how he works: “To celebrate is to give someone a platform where they can be seen. None of my stories have a negative approach. They're shining a light on a lifestyle that wants a light shone on it. It’s celebrating and presenting to the audience; they can take what they want from it.”

© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom

Young Fathers

People around Harvey began having children, making him interested in how fathers played their role in the family. “The Young Fathers series was an obvious choice for me back then. Historically, it has been females who have always been seen as the caring providers for children. As society changes over time, that role changes within the workplace, at home, and for both genders. So, it was an exciting subject for me to explore.

Before starting my series, I did a lot of casting research by scrolling through Instagram and finding people. Usually, I'll photograph one person, which will lead to getting an introduction to another person. Then, that network grows. I use other projects as indicators to show people how I work.”

The project Young Fathers never stopped and can be continued when Harvey meets more willing subjects. “I have never stopped any of the projects. There's always more to add. Unless you create a photo book, there's no end to it. I haven't made a photobook probably because it's always good to take your time with these things and allow them to grow naturally.”

© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom

Skins and Suedes  

The series Skins and Suedes shows British youth who are dressed in a variety of skinhead styles. Skinheads drew influence from the early Mod style and originally had the music of 1960s Jamaican musicians as their soundtrack. Harvey was drawn to the subculture of skinheads in the UK because of the complex political and cultural implications. “The skinhead movement was influenced by black music. It was also picked up and used hugely in the gay scene. It's been through so many different waves of what skinhead represents. Back in the '60s, skinheads thrived also within football culture in the UK. It was a prominent look for clubs like Chelsea and Millwall. My dad was a huge Chelsea football fan. From a young age, I watched a lot of football and saw and heard about older guys who dressed this way. Those involved in the subculture had a sense of working-class pride, and this attribute was often recognised in the white and black youth who grew up across England. The distinct skinhead look went on to be adopted by various fascist groups, and many original skinheads felt it was time to abandon their style due to the negative association. Some true skinheads refused to give up their style, which ultimately caused a divide within the subculture between those with differing political stances.”

© Owen Harvey | Skins and Suedes, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Skins and Suedes, United Kingdom

Ground Clearance  

His most recent series, Ground Clearance, tells the story of the Mexican-American subculture of Lowriding, a style of driving cars in which the body is low to the ground. When he was young, Harvey listened to hip-hop music. He saw the low-riding cars in the music videos of rap artists like Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre, Cypress Hill, and Wu-tang clan. “I read about the history of Mexican-Americans and how they'd use these cars to make political statements on the cars and use them as tools to be seen. They were criminalised by the American state. The government mainly saw them as a sign of gang culture, which was a way of suppressing Mexicans in America. This series touches on politics, race inequality and how people feel safe to belong to a group.”

In some photos, you also see youngsters on fancy converted bicycles with handlebars made of twisted metal tubes. “If you cannot afford a car, the bike is another option. I was in touch with a group of teenagers who were low-riding with bicycles. I was interested in this idea of their heritage being passed down from their parents, who were low-riding in the '80s and '90s, to these younger kids. Through those younger kids, I knew I'd probably meet their dads and mums who are into low-riding. It's a sense of community. The cars and the bicycles aren’t just objects. They have become symbols of their own culture.”

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

Documentary storytelling

The portraits are shot in medium format or 35mm, depending on the project Harvey is shooting. “Some of the pictures are slower than others. Some are composed portraits, and others are more candid moments. Usually, I make portraits, detail shots, and candid moments that show the lifestyle aspects. I've always followed the same approach—traditional documentary photojournalism storytelling. My influences range from Eugene Smith and Eugene Richards to Larry Clark, who did a lot about youth and subculture. Recently, I became more interested in photographers with a more cinematic approach, such as Gregory Crewdson and Todd Hido. Martin Parr, the photographer, has also inspired me; you can't deny his ability to comment on society intelligently.”

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
About
Owen Harvey is a British photographer. He creates celebratory visual stories about people. Strong human connection is at the core of his work, whether that be through candid moments or portraiture. He has immersed himself in the world of authentic subcultures and stand-alone individuals, and he strives to portray the essence of who they are. From mods to lowriders, classical dancers to skinheads and matadors to dominatrix, Harvey uses photography as a tool to collaborate and explore how people find a sense of belonging. He works for many international clients and magazines. He had various exhibitions in Britain and abroad. He was shortlisted at the Sony World Photography Awards 2024.

www.owen-harvey.com

Celebrating subcultures

British photographer Owen Harvey creates celebratory visual stories about different subcultures.

Words by

Artdoc

British photographer Owen Harvey creates celebratory visual stories about different subcultures.
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

In society, people need to fit into a group, which gives them a sense of identity and belonging. This societal need becomes the most visible in subcultures, where members dress differently to separate themselves from the mainstream culture. British photographer Owen Harvey creates celebratory visual stories about different subcultures. His Ground Clearance project got him a Sony World Photography Awards nomination.

For Harvey, subcultures lend themselves well to photography because they are visually attractive and can cause debate among the spectators. “I think good visual art in general, not just photography, needs subjects that can make it strong. Firstly, the subject needs to lend itself visually. Secondly, you need the ability to catch emotion in the pictures. Emotive subjects always help. Thirdly, you need it to be contentious to cause conversation. Niche groups have a history to them, and they can create a conversation around the topic. I'm most interested in how people find a sense of belonging in these different communities. I use these different subcultures or niche cultures to explore and use that as a vehicle to find those places.”

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

Asking questions

Even though Owen Harvey has a stance towards his subjects, his photographic work doesn't necessarily have to give answers. It can raise questions for the viewer. “What I'm interested in is, first and foremost, making visual stories that people want to engage with. But, if those stories can cause conversation and open a room to critically engage with them on some level, that makes the story stronger and more interesting. Then the work gets more layers to it, and it's not just looking at it on the surface level of things, but going a bit deeper into that subject.”

On Harvey's website, his brief statement says: “I create celebratory visual stories about people.” He explains how he works: “To celebrate is to give someone a platform where they can be seen. None of my stories have a negative approach. They're shining a light on a lifestyle that wants a light shone on it. It’s celebrating and presenting to the audience; they can take what they want from it.”

© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom

Young Fathers

People around Harvey began having children, making him interested in how fathers played their role in the family. “The Young Fathers series was an obvious choice for me back then. Historically, it has been females who have always been seen as the caring providers for children. As society changes over time, that role changes within the workplace, at home, and for both genders. So, it was an exciting subject for me to explore.

Before starting my series, I did a lot of casting research by scrolling through Instagram and finding people. Usually, I'll photograph one person, which will lead to getting an introduction to another person. Then, that network grows. I use other projects as indicators to show people how I work.”

The project Young Fathers never stopped and can be continued when Harvey meets more willing subjects. “I have never stopped any of the projects. There's always more to add. Unless you create a photo book, there's no end to it. I haven't made a photobook probably because it's always good to take your time with these things and allow them to grow naturally.”

© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom

Skins and Suedes  

The series Skins and Suedes shows British youth who are dressed in a variety of skinhead styles. Skinheads drew influence from the early Mod style and originally had the music of 1960s Jamaican musicians as their soundtrack. Harvey was drawn to the subculture of skinheads in the UK because of the complex political and cultural implications. “The skinhead movement was influenced by black music. It was also picked up and used hugely in the gay scene. It's been through so many different waves of what skinhead represents. Back in the '60s, skinheads thrived also within football culture in the UK. It was a prominent look for clubs like Chelsea and Millwall. My dad was a huge Chelsea football fan. From a young age, I watched a lot of football and saw and heard about older guys who dressed this way. Those involved in the subculture had a sense of working-class pride, and this attribute was often recognised in the white and black youth who grew up across England. The distinct skinhead look went on to be adopted by various fascist groups, and many original skinheads felt it was time to abandon their style due to the negative association. Some true skinheads refused to give up their style, which ultimately caused a divide within the subculture between those with differing political stances.”

© Owen Harvey | Skins and Suedes, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Skins and Suedes, United Kingdom

Ground Clearance  

His most recent series, Ground Clearance, tells the story of the Mexican-American subculture of Lowriding, a style of driving cars in which the body is low to the ground. When he was young, Harvey listened to hip-hop music. He saw the low-riding cars in the music videos of rap artists like Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre, Cypress Hill, and Wu-tang clan. “I read about the history of Mexican-Americans and how they'd use these cars to make political statements on the cars and use them as tools to be seen. They were criminalised by the American state. The government mainly saw them as a sign of gang culture, which was a way of suppressing Mexicans in America. This series touches on politics, race inequality and how people feel safe to belong to a group.”

In some photos, you also see youngsters on fancy converted bicycles with handlebars made of twisted metal tubes. “If you cannot afford a car, the bike is another option. I was in touch with a group of teenagers who were low-riding with bicycles. I was interested in this idea of their heritage being passed down from their parents, who were low-riding in the '80s and '90s, to these younger kids. Through those younger kids, I knew I'd probably meet their dads and mums who are into low-riding. It's a sense of community. The cars and the bicycles aren’t just objects. They have become symbols of their own culture.”

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

Documentary storytelling

The portraits are shot in medium format or 35mm, depending on the project Harvey is shooting. “Some of the pictures are slower than others. Some are composed portraits, and others are more candid moments. Usually, I make portraits, detail shots, and candid moments that show the lifestyle aspects. I've always followed the same approach—traditional documentary photojournalism storytelling. My influences range from Eugene Smith and Eugene Richards to Larry Clark, who did a lot about youth and subculture. Recently, I became more interested in photographers with a more cinematic approach, such as Gregory Crewdson and Todd Hido. Martin Parr, the photographer, has also inspired me; you can't deny his ability to comment on society intelligently.”

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
About
Owen Harvey is a British photographer. He creates celebratory visual stories about people. Strong human connection is at the core of his work, whether that be through candid moments or portraiture. He has immersed himself in the world of authentic subcultures and stand-alone individuals, and he strives to portray the essence of who they are. From mods to lowriders, classical dancers to skinheads and matadors to dominatrix, Harvey uses photography as a tool to collaborate and explore how people find a sense of belonging. He works for many international clients and magazines. He had various exhibitions in Britain and abroad. He was shortlisted at the Sony World Photography Awards 2024.

www.owen-harvey.com

Celebrating subcultures

British photographer Owen Harvey creates celebratory visual stories about different subcultures.

Words by

Artdoc

Celebrating subcultures
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

In society, people need to fit into a group, which gives them a sense of identity and belonging. This societal need becomes the most visible in subcultures, where members dress differently to separate themselves from the mainstream culture. British photographer Owen Harvey creates celebratory visual stories about different subcultures. His Ground Clearance project got him a Sony World Photography Awards nomination.

For Harvey, subcultures lend themselves well to photography because they are visually attractive and can cause debate among the spectators. “I think good visual art in general, not just photography, needs subjects that can make it strong. Firstly, the subject needs to lend itself visually. Secondly, you need the ability to catch emotion in the pictures. Emotive subjects always help. Thirdly, you need it to be contentious to cause conversation. Niche groups have a history to them, and they can create a conversation around the topic. I'm most interested in how people find a sense of belonging in these different communities. I use these different subcultures or niche cultures to explore and use that as a vehicle to find those places.”

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

Asking questions

Even though Owen Harvey has a stance towards his subjects, his photographic work doesn't necessarily have to give answers. It can raise questions for the viewer. “What I'm interested in is, first and foremost, making visual stories that people want to engage with. But, if those stories can cause conversation and open a room to critically engage with them on some level, that makes the story stronger and more interesting. Then the work gets more layers to it, and it's not just looking at it on the surface level of things, but going a bit deeper into that subject.”

On Harvey's website, his brief statement says: “I create celebratory visual stories about people.” He explains how he works: “To celebrate is to give someone a platform where they can be seen. None of my stories have a negative approach. They're shining a light on a lifestyle that wants a light shone on it. It’s celebrating and presenting to the audience; they can take what they want from it.”

© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom

Young Fathers

People around Harvey began having children, making him interested in how fathers played their role in the family. “The Young Fathers series was an obvious choice for me back then. Historically, it has been females who have always been seen as the caring providers for children. As society changes over time, that role changes within the workplace, at home, and for both genders. So, it was an exciting subject for me to explore.

Before starting my series, I did a lot of casting research by scrolling through Instagram and finding people. Usually, I'll photograph one person, which will lead to getting an introduction to another person. Then, that network grows. I use other projects as indicators to show people how I work.”

The project Young Fathers never stopped and can be continued when Harvey meets more willing subjects. “I have never stopped any of the projects. There's always more to add. Unless you create a photo book, there's no end to it. I haven't made a photobook probably because it's always good to take your time with these things and allow them to grow naturally.”

© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Young Fathers, United Kingdom

Skins and Suedes  

The series Skins and Suedes shows British youth who are dressed in a variety of skinhead styles. Skinheads drew influence from the early Mod style and originally had the music of 1960s Jamaican musicians as their soundtrack. Harvey was drawn to the subculture of skinheads in the UK because of the complex political and cultural implications. “The skinhead movement was influenced by black music. It was also picked up and used hugely in the gay scene. It's been through so many different waves of what skinhead represents. Back in the '60s, skinheads thrived also within football culture in the UK. It was a prominent look for clubs like Chelsea and Millwall. My dad was a huge Chelsea football fan. From a young age, I watched a lot of football and saw and heard about older guys who dressed this way. Those involved in the subculture had a sense of working-class pride, and this attribute was often recognised in the white and black youth who grew up across England. The distinct skinhead look went on to be adopted by various fascist groups, and many original skinheads felt it was time to abandon their style due to the negative association. Some true skinheads refused to give up their style, which ultimately caused a divide within the subculture between those with differing political stances.”

© Owen Harvey | Skins and Suedes, United Kingdom
© Owen Harvey | Skins and Suedes, United Kingdom

Ground Clearance  

His most recent series, Ground Clearance, tells the story of the Mexican-American subculture of Lowriding, a style of driving cars in which the body is low to the ground. When he was young, Harvey listened to hip-hop music. He saw the low-riding cars in the music videos of rap artists like Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre, Cypress Hill, and Wu-tang clan. “I read about the history of Mexican-Americans and how they'd use these cars to make political statements on the cars and use them as tools to be seen. They were criminalised by the American state. The government mainly saw them as a sign of gang culture, which was a way of suppressing Mexicans in America. This series touches on politics, race inequality and how people feel safe to belong to a group.”

In some photos, you also see youngsters on fancy converted bicycles with handlebars made of twisted metal tubes. “If you cannot afford a car, the bike is another option. I was in touch with a group of teenagers who were low-riding with bicycles. I was interested in this idea of their heritage being passed down from their parents, who were low-riding in the '80s and '90s, to these younger kids. Through those younger kids, I knew I'd probably meet their dads and mums who are into low-riding. It's a sense of community. The cars and the bicycles aren’t just objects. They have become symbols of their own culture.”

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America

Documentary storytelling

The portraits are shot in medium format or 35mm, depending on the project Harvey is shooting. “Some of the pictures are slower than others. Some are composed portraits, and others are more candid moments. Usually, I make portraits, detail shots, and candid moments that show the lifestyle aspects. I've always followed the same approach—traditional documentary photojournalism storytelling. My influences range from Eugene Smith and Eugene Richards to Larry Clark, who did a lot about youth and subculture. Recently, I became more interested in photographers with a more cinematic approach, such as Gregory Crewdson and Todd Hido. Martin Parr, the photographer, has also inspired me; you can't deny his ability to comment on society intelligently.”

© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
© Owen Harvey | Ground Clearance, America
About
Owen Harvey is a British photographer. He creates celebratory visual stories about people. Strong human connection is at the core of his work, whether that be through candid moments or portraiture. He has immersed himself in the world of authentic subcultures and stand-alone individuals, and he strives to portray the essence of who they are. From mods to lowriders, classical dancers to skinheads and matadors to dominatrix, Harvey uses photography as a tool to collaborate and explore how people find a sense of belonging. He works for many international clients and magazines. He had various exhibitions in Britain and abroad. He was shortlisted at the Sony World Photography Awards 2024.

www.owen-harvey.com
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.