In this intimate portrait, journalist Paulina Czienskowski writes about her teen brother, Julius, to show us a different view—as a tender teengazer—of today’s teen.


Julius has always been more of an observer. He’s someone who tries to look into the souls of others. He has a special depth, which he occasionally expresses verbally, and it’s surprising when he does because he only speaks up in a situation that asks for it.


Just like everyone else, he lives in the world of digital self-representation. Oh boy, and it looks so tempting and easy. He says that too: to redefine yourself, to play roles, to express your quirks publicly. It would never occur to Julius to demonize this reality. He just doesn’t take part in it, because it’s not him. Apparently recognition matters more than material success for his generation. Where do you fit into this extroverted universe as a reserved, eighteen-year-old like he is?


Julius belongs to GEN Z, the digital nomadic genius generation. Carrying his smartphone around with him like it’s his second heart, even quiet Julius feels like his body can’t function without it. When we have dinner together, he holds his phone in his hands. He flicks through news, instagram, the weather-app all while carrying on conversation and cutting with his knife and fork and knife, having practiced this IRL-URL symbiosis from infancy.


Julius isn’t a faker. He stays true to himself, only sometimes getting sucked into comparing himself to others on social media. More often he’s attracted by the fact that the internet doesn’t dictate to anyone about having to be a certain way. Peeking through the keyhole of other lives is no longer a taboo. So he sometimes wonders: Maybe I should? I could? I need to?


His intimate thoughtfulness, his constant state of reflecting about things, can be seen in the ambiance of his photography. When Julius was 12 years old, he started photographing his group of skateboard friends. He, himself was almost never part of the imagery. He prefers to document sensitive situations by trying to remain unremarkable and hidden, so he can be an emotional witness and translate that onto film.


Julius grew up in Berlin, in a privileged surrounding without too many sorrows. He is aware of the scene he is part of: the creative industry of a big town, inside which he and his peers have the luxury to grapple primarily with their image, their clothing and attitudes, which become an aesthetic to share with their digital friends. He sometimes wonders if their existence is linked to their digital output and how much of a mitigation role the screen plays between people today: if I show a lot of skin, am I really being vulnerable or has digital existence created a wall between us?


In his photography, Julius does the unusual by inviting people to feel him through the introspective qualities of his work. This is unexpected for a young happy-go-lucky boy, who in his photos, seems to be an almost morbid, nostalgic, melancholic old man. In a visual world, his style feels like the subtle alternative of social media, the antidote to the bright, fast-paced temptations of life.


Every now and then a selfie appears on his feed. Considerate and staged, these are comparable to an Old Master painter who portrays himself unsmiling and commanding from the shadows. It’s refreshing to recognize some of our dearest values surviving in a GEN Z instagramer: timidity, humility, sensitivity and genuine interest in others.




Agnes Lloyd-Platt

© 2021