Teen Photographer Gets Solo Exhibit at Crown Heights Cafe
CROWN HEIGHTS — If there's one thing teen photographer Nahshon Outten hopes viewers take away from his new Brooklyn exhibition, it's that the kids are actually all right.
"[Other photographers] only shown teens going through depression and struggles.... I found that kind of annoying," said the high schooler, whose photographs are on display at Crown Heights' Nimba Cafe through Feb. 2.
"Around school, I would go up to people that I admired most, that they had that particular thing that they loved to do," continued Outten, 17. "I would just take pictures of them doing that."
Outten's images capture Brooklyn youth primping and posing, clowning and daydreaming through the lighter side of adolescence. There is little in the way of teenage brooding, either in composition or substance. Most subjects are shown smiling.
The portraits caught the eye of Nimba owner Eric Mpasi, who said he was approached by Outten's former teacher Heather Day after he began offering the walls of his 619 St. Johns Place cafe to local artists this fall.
"Every two months, we’re trying to have local artists in the neighborhood have a place where they can actually expose their work," Mpasi said. "[Outten] showed us his work, and we said, 'Oh yeah, this is nice and this is interesting.'
"I think he’s going to be a great photographer in the future," Mpasi continued. "He’s only 17 and he’s really good."
The photos are for sale at Nimba Cafe and on Etsy, starting at $40 per print.
Although he's now almost inseparable from his Nikon D3100 digital camera, Outten said he started documenting his subjects on a lark, challenging himself to upload daily snapshots to Instagram.
"I think it was a day in March  when I just thought for some reason the clouds looked especially elegant and so saturated to me, and for some reason the sky was extra blue and I just wanted to take a picture," said Outten, who lives in Central Brooklyn. "I decided, why not do it every day?"
He soon started thinking of himself as an aspiring professional, rather than just an amateur shutterbug.
"My father at my age was a photographer himself: He did photography and music videos with hip-hop artists from the '90s and stuff," Outten said. "I brought up to him that I liked pictures and I wanted a camera, and he had just purchased a D7100 and this [the D3100] was just laying around, so he said, 'Here, you can just use that.'"
The teen's first foray into something more complicated than an iPhone began last year, when he was still a junior at the Brooklyn Community High School of Communication, Arts and Media. From there he began taking classes through the International Center for Photography's Teen Academy, and he hopes to continue shooting like his photographic idol Jamel Shabazz when he heads to college next year.
"Capturing moments and telling stories behind them is a passion for me," Outten said. "I want to do the type of photography that as much work as I put in, [viewers] get the same amount out of it."