Alligator Pong, 2015.

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Chyna, 2015.

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Swamp, 2017.

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Alligator Pong, 2015.

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Young Love is the new body of work by Ivar Wigan documenting two years spent living within the dancehall communities of Jamaica.


Expanding on the artist’s long standing relationship with the island, first encountered in his youth whilst living nomadically with his family, Young Love is both documentation and celebration of a culture Wigan holds in deep affection. His organic response to the idiosyncrasies of the island capture the spirit of youthful energy, sexual freedom and resourcefulness against adversity. Images shift effortlessly between the domestic, the jubilant and the bizarre, whilst the subtle beauty of daily life is juxtaposed with raucous party scenes and unflinching portraiture.


Employing the familiarity of the point and shoot camera with the raw aesthetic of film, Wigan is able to encapsulate ways of life in a vibrant but commonly inaccessible community. Central to the work are the inhabitants that become the artist’s inner circle. Street kids, hustlers and party girls become collaborators, working with Wigan to create stark and intimate photographs that portray the island’s most colourful personalities on their own terms.


The title Young Love suggests a universal experience defined by exploration, optimism, and life changing relationships. With this collection of photographs, Wigan moves beyond the seedy glamour and hedonism typically associated with the dancehall scene, to locate the deep significance the lifestyle provides for those connected within it. His snapshots reveal moments of fragility and euphoria within gatherings of close friends and likeminded crowds. His contemplative still lifes provide small windows into the modest interior scenes and stunning natural beauty that provides a backdrop to their world.


Ivar Wigan’s commitment and sensitivity to the stories of his subjects delivers a rich tapestry of photographs that are simultaneously cinematic and spontaneous. Charged with humanity and passion, this series is a vital and enduring record of an isolated culture that is frequently misunderstood and would otherwise might remain unseen.

Why Jamaica?

My family have longstanding connections to the island so I’ve been going for ten years. I’ve been shooting there from my first visit, I’ve been at births and deaths and know people all over Jamaica from all walks of life, so the idea of creating a project evolved quite organically. It is a second home to me.

Why did you chose to portrait that world?

This is a neglected area in the art world. I haven’t seen it explored or discussed to date. Because I have these connections to the island I felt a duty to take my work there.

How is to live day by day with that universe? With that reality?

An image can only ever give you a slice of life but when you take in the full project I think Young Love has the power to take the audience into this world. These people are my friends. I lived in Jamaica with them for 2 years and I’ll be going back to visit them through life. I might even live there again. It is place that has become home to me.

Is this your way to show that there is another Jamaica?

The lives portrayed in Young Love are the lives of the majority of youth on the island. There is a rising middle class on the island too but that is a much smaller group. Most people still live in the ghetto.

In what do everybody believe in the ghettos? One asociates Jamaica with the rastafari, a conexion with life and everything... and, on the other hand, we see drugs, prostitution, something very apocalyptic... so... to what point this two sides are true? And at what point does they converge?

Rastafari is not the main religion on the island. Christianity is the mainstream religion. Dreadlocks you might see frequently but people who actually worship Selassie are quite few.  The power of music culture has spread many Rasta ideologies into the popular consciousness so this does help to give some moral guidance to the youth.

Your work is antropologic, documentalist, realistic, how do you define it? How would you describe your work?

I would never describe it like this. The work is about my personal life experiences and the people I know. I make portraiture that is both truthful and uplifting at the same time. All good portraiture should do this. It has to be something you can give back. Everyone I worked with on Young Love took their pictures back and loved them. There is nothing anthropological about the work. This is a study of my life and my friends. 

How the fact of being born in Scottland and raised in London influences you in your search for scenarios or just influences you or your work?

It doesn’t matter where I was born. I left Scotland at 6 months old. I could have been born anywhere.

I went to an early school in London but I always travelled. My father was a travel writer. When I was a child we were in mexico, the usa, canada, alaska,. I’ve been in a lot of countries. 

How do you chose your motives to photograph?

Imagery must be able to transport the viewer. I like things that are attention grabbing and rewarding to look at. Things that make you want to come back again and again to see and everytime you look you see more in them.

About Ivar Wigan:

Born in Scotland, and raised in London, photographer Ivar Wigan (b. 1979) approaches narrative and portrait scenes with a nuanced sensitivity to social interaction. Through imagery culled from intimate relationships and interactions with his surroundings, the artist aims to break down barriers that society has built up around minority and youth cultures. The impetus to document comes from a place of admiration and in this way, his photographs call to mind the work of Nan Goldin or Richard Billingham, where drama and atmosphere are heightened by acute respect and empathy.


Wigan received his MA in History of Art and Ancient History from the University of Edinburgh. 2015 saw the release of The Gods, a collection of photographs created during time spent immersed in the North American sprawl of Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles. It was here that the artist first became absorbed by the mutable youth and music cultures that unfold out of the African diaspora.

Photos courtesy of Ivar Wigan.

Inverview Marcio Parks and Juan Cruz Molas y Molas.


Una mirada auténtica sobre la subcultura.

(an authentic look about subculture).

To see more about Ivar Wigan go to:

Official website / Instagram