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School of Visual Communication student Ian Bates followed teenagers from New Straitsville, Ohio.

Photographer: Ian Bates

IanBates1-255

Bates explained that although unemployment and poor economies can be found throughout the country, they way it affects young adults varies.

Photographer: Ian Bates

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VisCom student’s project featured on New York Times’ Lens blog


When School of Visual Communication (VisCom) student Ian Bates first stumbled on Cameron Bosser and J.R. Harrison making a carrot canon in Bosser's yard last October, he was simply looking for something to photograph. Six months later those same photographs graced The New York Times' Lens blog.

Bates' "The New American" shows a group of teenage friends in New Straitsville, Ohio in their day-to-day life as they try to fight off boredom. The project focuses on economic struggles and unemployment, and how those issues affect the way young adults grow up.

"When I met this group of young adults I saw that they all had a lot of potential and were very skilled with working with cars and creating things but they lived in an area with very little job opportunities," Bates said. "I wanted to document the way that they grew up with the culture of Appalachia and the downed economy of the last few years affecting the area even more so."

Bates explained that although unemployment and poor economies can be found throughout the country, they way it affects young adults varies.

"Cameron [Bosser] for example is extremely well versed in the oil well drilling business and is an incredibly skilled machinist and will probably not have an extremely hard time finding a job with an oil company around here, but many of the young adults in this area aren't lucky enough to have learned a specific skill that could help them," he said.

While at the National Press Photographer Association's Northern Short Course in March, Bates had a portfolio review with James Estrin, an editor for the Lens blog. Estrin liked what he saw in the photos of the New Straisville group of friends, so the two kept in contact until Estrin thought the project was ready.

"Ian Bates is proof that hard work, talent and perseverance can succeed in launching your visual talent to the next level," said Terry Eiler, director of VisCom. "It is so very, very rare that an undergraduate project is featured in The New York Times' Lens blog. All of VisCom is proud, delighted and excited for Ian."