Lila Lee-Morrison on Kids and the surplus of the image
But while Clark’s photography falls within the genre of documentary in all these respects, the “truth” his images communicate is personal and deeply subjective. There is a tenderness toward the individuals he captures, no matter how brutal the content of their actions. These images and their aestheticization of the rawness of youth culture became central to the ’90s trend of “heroin chic.” Clark has said that he was addicted to heroin until 1998. As an addict, he was also an enabler of other people’s habits, including those of the teenage skateboarders he befriended and who worked on the film. As is not uncommon in the blur of addiction, he tried to get some individuals clean and sober while being unable to get clean and sober himself. Driven by his long-standing impulse to counteract the socially conservative denial of the experiences of young people, he wound up myopically projecting his concerns with addiction and teenage male sexuality onto the film’s subjects. In doing so, Clark identified with those subjects and, as he did in his photographs, created a world in which adults have no part to play except as voyeurs and adolescents make their own rules. With its polychrome palette, Kids departs dramatically from Clark’s previous black-and-white aesthetic, while the grim ambience of his still photography gives way to urban splendor and emotive close-ups. But the throughline is sustained. Here, as in his earlier work, the self-destructive and violent tendencies of his subjects form a narrative of trauma that is his own.tes her belief that Justin would still be alive if the movie had never been made.
On the other hand, there is Clark’s focus on teenage boys as vectors of violence, sexual violence in particular. If the film were really honest, it would have been titled Boys. The narrative is driven by the motivation of the protagonist, Telly (played by Fitzpatrick), to “fuck virgins”; he calls himself the “virgin surgeon.” This plot was so ridiculous and contrary to reality that most of us just laughed at it at the time. It so obviously came from the mind of an adult. Every boy I knew was interested in experienced, if not older, sexual partners, not virgins. The “virgin surgeon” plot device underscored a narrative central to Clark’s own artistic vision, namely the destruction of innocence .