It’s a warm summer afternoon and you’re sitting on a blanket in a friend’s backyard. Or maybe the park around the corner. You rub your greasy potato chip fingers on the grass and shoot the shit. Lulls in conversation give way to songs you’ve listened to together many times before. Slowly, the afternoon sun is blanketed by the trees, and it starts to cool down. A few more friends stop by and everyone piles into a crowded car. Off to a house party, a friend of a friend was invited to, or a cheap dinner and an aimless drive around town.
It’s these quotidian memories of closeness that encapsulate youth and the friendships it brings. And it is these very moments of growth and connection that Swiss photographer Noah Noyan Wenzinger has captured in his titular publication Noyan 2015-2022 (Edition Patrick Frey, 2023). An era that is instantly recognizable, reminisable, and emphatically fleeting, Noyan’s seven-year project takes us from his mid-teens through early twenties.
All night ragers turn to rides on the outskirts of town, days by the pool to bonfires, and spontaneity fades into forever. Drawing on influences from across the worlds of film, music, and gaming, Noyan captures an era where discovery and conviction help to shape ourselves and our relationships with those closest to us. Through his lens we see Noyan’s growth as an artist and person, alongside friends and the community he’s fostered in his home of Zürich.
Ahead of his title’s release, we spoke with Noyan about instant nostalgia, building community through photography, and the interconnectedness of youth.
You’ve captured—and I get that this is kind of weird to say, because you were obviously living through it as it was happening—a period of coming into one’s own that many people are nostalgic for in their own lives. I’d be curious to hear how you think about the role of nostalgia in your work?
I always say nostalgia is the worst drug. But I love playing around with nostalgia and incorporating it into my photos and videos from time to time. Already when I started taking pictures at like 14 or 15, I knew that down the road, some pictures would hit hard because of nostalgia. I just liked the idea that at one point I would have a collection of nostalgia, which is really beautiful. And there are also those pictures that are instantly nostalgic, it’s like witchcraft.
How do you feel your voice as a photographer evolved over the seven years that the work in this book spans? How do you feel this evolution aligned or contrasted with what you saw while going through your archives?
I became more confident in myself and I have a better understanding of what I want to do and what not. Going through my archives made me kind of face a lot of moments and emotions again.
Does photography capture community or can it create it?
Community exists without the picture. But photography captures the community and simultaneously creates or even enhances it.
I had to keep reminding myself that these scenes were unfolding in Zürich rather than London or San Francisco or Mexico City. Do you feel there is something universally identifiable about youth? Do you think there is a unique connection amongst Gen Z in particular?
It’s funny, since the beginning people would say that my pictures don’t look like Zürich, rather New York or some other big city. I never deliberately made it not look like Zürich, Switzerland. But I think it’s interesting how a lot of people need references and are always like, ‘There’s no way this is Switzerland.’
I mean that’s also a theme of my book, to just show what the fuck is going on here. I think that youth is definitely universally identifiable by their hunger for life and the hustle that comes with it. Social media for sure plays a part, why our generation feels universally connected. We are the generation which grew up in an endless stream of information and oversaturation.
As we know in the magazine world, there is a level of finality that comes with work ending up in print. Do you feel this book represents the closing of a chapter for you?
No, it’s only the beginning.