Kids These Days

During the past year, Cleveland Magazine contributor Greg Ruffing has captured images of B-boys on the streets of Los Angeles and young Muslim Americans living in Ohio. His photographs, along with works by 24 others, are collected in American Youth, a new book documenting the lives of 18- to 24-year-olds from throughout the nation. We talked to Ruffing about the project and what he learned along the way.

What interests you about portrait and documentary photography?
Ideas are always floating in my head about individuals in society and why people act the way they do — the way people create attitudes and behaviors and consumption patterns and how that is reflected in our society and culture. I just have an interest in humanity in general.

Why did you choose to photograph young Muslims?
Life in the U.S. after 9/11. That moment in history is going to define my generation and certainly the current youth generation being focused on in the book. I wanted to find these American youths and ask them what their lives are like now in this country. Are there difficulties? Are they subject to discrimination and prejudice?

What do you know about American youth now that you didn’t know before?
Obviously, I know about technology, but when you see the young end of the spectrum and the amount of technology that they are savvy to any waking moment of the day. ... It got to the point where I had to adapt to their lifestyle to try to stay in touch with people — to do interviews and meet people. I don’t think I have sent more text messages in my life. For some people, that was the only way I could get ahold of them.

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