Book Review: Oh! What Fun We Had
Tightly laced black boots, ripped denim jeans, a shining shaven head; all marks of a skinhead. Before the digital era, rebellion required more than simply clicking ‘like’ on a post. Gavin Watson captures the height of skinheads in Oh! What Fun We Had. On the streets of London, Watson photographs the daily life of a young skinhead in the 1980’s.
In one photograph, a teenage boy meticulously shaves the head of a younger child seated in front of him. The notably bald head is what gave rise to the term “skinhead” within the movement. Watson’s photos capture the grippingly real aspects of the skinheads, as he was a skinhead himself. In a wonderfully historic look back, the day-to-day lives of these teens are captured on film. Originally Watson didn’t have much use for the photos, putting most of them into a box after development. Now, as skinheads become part of history books, the regular lives of his friends are seen as an artistic rebellion.
Watson realizes the difference between the ability to rebel today and the ability to rebel three decades ago. He states that, “as young rebels at the time, our actions had no real impact,” and no change was created. Watson realized that in the 80’s everything was so small-scale that the only impact created by skinheads was from “the clothes we wore and the triggering they provoked.” Watson kept his photos from the world because he thought they would make no impact, but those photos are now guidelines for the modern day rebellions.
Dressed in blazers and slacks, the two boys in suits make comical faces at the camera. What started as an embracing movement of the working class culture transformed into a rebellion against the establishment. With one foot propped up behind him, leaning back, the younger of the two boys straightens his bow tie with a smirk. The older boy’s overdramatic frown expresses the skinhead attitude against the opulent culture around them. Their formal attire holds a greater purpose than to merely show the world that skinheads can dress up; it mocks the conventional thought forced on the youth.
Transitioning between color and black and white photos, Watson’s photos range between various environments; kids standing next to graffiti-covered walls in one photo, while in another, skinheads are pictured at a seemingly normal wedding. His photos show that being a skinhead was a pull away from any labels, focusing on going against the grain. His photos show that skinheads were standing on their own; “That was the joy about being a skinhead, the misconstruction.” It was focused on people trying to take and create something that united misunderstood people together.