“Adolescence is a stage that marked me personally,” Leo Adef explains. “I lived those years seeing and thinking about many things and meeting very different people. At that stage I think I became an observer.”
“Observer” is a good word to sum up the work of the Argentine photographer and filmmaker, who now splits his time between Barcelona and Buenos Aries. His work, whether focused on still or moving images is beautiful, but it also feels genuine, like he’s stylised real stuff instead of creating his own world. Unsurprisingly given what he says about the effect his own teenage years had on him, a lot of his work features young people, and he draws that line from his own experiences to the work he makes today.
“I think I still do something very similar. Meeting and observing young people of all styles and from different parts of the world. Fantasizing about different adolescences from the one I had. Trying to understand and connect with young people that are going through the same things I went through a few years ago – or are going through the things I didn’t have the courage to live through myself.”
It was as a teenager he started capturing the world around him with his cameras, but it wasn’t always easy to stay true to his own creative vision.
“I think the greatest challenge was always to not lose the passion when things didn’t go as expected,” he says. “ It’s not easy trying to earn a living from personal projects, trying to work on things that are faithful to what you believe and feel.
“But over time, I realized that although it’s a longer road, you can do it. It’s super gratifying to start seeing that different artists, brands and media are interested in that point of view, and to collaborate with them doing what I love the most.”
Now he’s very in-demand – whether it’s branded work for Yves Saint Laurent, music videos for Tofel Santana and MNKYBSNSS, shorts for i-D and Nowness or his personal photo series, Leo creates beguiling visuals, supercharged with sexuality.
His interest is not so much in changing gender roles or broad-brush social commentary, but rather the individual ways we all create our identities, how we work out who we are.
“I don’t intend to give a specific message, but only to get to know and portray the different stories about this time of life,” Leo explains. “In every youth I see the moment of growth in a very different way, according to where they live, their environments, their interests.
“I’m interested in seeing how each kid builds their personality, their style and their way of expressing themselves, leaving behind the labels that come with conditions and limits.”