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Ben Pier is a photographer who captures moments of youth and portraits of the young at heart in his recently published collection TEENAGE TEETH. Shot over the past decade, Ben’s photographs are an honest ode to sloppy ink jobs, to being drunk and crushing, to bedrooms that feel like fish tanks and that weird girl you met by the lake, who you just can’t stop thinking about. The release of TEENAGE TEETH was accompanied by a launch party and exhibit at Ed. Varie, a gallery/bookshop in the East Village. I chatted with Ben at the event and after via email about teenagedom, the suburbs and losing your “teenage teeth.”

Angela Melamud: Your work screams: I’m an awesome juvenile delinquent! What were you like as a teenager? Stories?

Ben Pier: I have stories. Buy me a drink, and I’ll tell you a couple. I think I was a pretty OK kid. I wanted to be a badass, but all the total burnouts scared the shit out of me—but I liked that. Those kids don’t last long, and it’s really fun being next to them while they’re around. As a teenager, I was went through the awkward comic-book-nerd stage, then into a metal-head phase, then I got really into punk, then I started a band, skated, skipped class and ate acid. But that didn’t seem too crazy. I was also on the hockey team and dated cheerleaders.

Angela: Although you live in New York City, most of your photographs seem to be set in the suburbs. Do they reflect your own childhood in Missouri?

Ben: I’m drawn to suburban/domestic life because it’s so foreign to me now, and it’s fun to explore what’s foreign, right? I love NYC, but I don’t totally love shooting personal work here. I like to get out of my surroundings to make my work. I like to go on the road and search people and places out, like a hunt. My eyeballs go crazy as soon as I leave the city. It’s great.

Angela: [The term] “teenage teeth” is evocative of baby teeth. What do you think is the transition for when we loose our teenage teeth?

Ben: Some people hold onto them forever. Others slowly lose them, while some people never have them. You know that quote from The Breakfast Club when the basket-case girl says, “When you get older, your heart dies?” It’s kind of true. The things you feel deep inside you when you’re a certain age—those things, they tend to fade away. But when you’re young or when you feel young and you’re totally immersed in everything you believe in, you can somehow exist inside that world you create—before the actual world comes and takes a dump all over your face.

Angela: Is the collection inherently optimistic because it captures the joy of youth? Or is it pessimistic because that joy has to pass, like teenagers have to become adults?

Ben: It’s both—you can’t have one without the other. Total yin and yang, dude.

To purchase TEENAGE TEETH email the Ed.Varie gallery at books@edvarie.com.

Above and below photos from Teenage Teeth

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The satellite images of Joplin, Mo., that are available on Google Maps were taken within the last year, after the devastating tornado of May 22, 2011, that killed more than 160 people. Buildings across the city appear as matchsticks in those aerial views, which have been preserved by the Internet as the picture of Joplin.

But when photographer Greg Miller arrived in Joplin to photograph the city in the days leading up to the tornado’s one-year anniversary, it looked like everything had been fixed. “I had to ask somebody where the damage was,” he says. Miller, who says that Joplin is much larger than he expected and eventually drove out to the areas that are still putting themselves back together. “I realized that not by a long shot has everything been rebuilt.”

For one thing: there are no trees. That was, Miller says, the most dramatic evidence of the destruction. “They had tons of trees in that area and now the trees are either gone or stripped of their leaves,” he says.

It was in a cemetery that the extent of the damage really hit home for the photographer. He figured there were other priorities in the town and no way the people would take the time to right any monuments that had been knocked over—but, even as he thought that, he stumbled upon some men in the process of fixing the place up. “The guys were trying to figure out where the tombstones went. A 500-lb. tombstone, this piece of solid granite, had been tossed maybe 20 feet away,” he says. “Cars, much bigger than 500 lbs., were moved around too; maybe I’m a little numb to the pictures of cars. Seeing that stone…I thought, wow, that must been really a strong wind.”

It wasn’t just a reminder of the strength of the tornado itself. It was also a reminder of the strength of the people. After all, he didn’t actually see cars still piled up in the streets of Joplin. And some people, like a woman thankful for her Habitat for Humanity house who Miller met when photographing her two children waiting at the bus stop, managed to see a silver lining.

And that attitude fit with Miller’s photographic goals. There were still piles of debris, he says, and still empty foundations. There were sad moments to photograph, evidence of loss. But, for one thing, Miller felt like there were so many pictures of that destruction that there was no point making another. And for another, that felt like the old Joplin, the satellite-picture Joplin, not the Joplin of today.

“Definitely there was an upbeat mood in the town. Because of the anniversary, they don’t go to that dark place. They’re staying in this place of like, look, we’re going to make this happen,” he says. “One person I spoke to said it wiped Joplin off the map and then put it on the map.”

Greg Miller is a photographer based in New York City. See more of his work here.

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After confronting anti-Muslim hostility, Bharat Choudhary - himself a Hindu - set out to document how young Muslims navigate their way through the fears and stereotypes imposed on them in the West. His journey has taken him across several continents and cultures.

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