Saturday Town shows us the future is bright, wild and queer.

Casey Orr is the photographer capturing our creative, radical and brave youth movement in its technicolor beauty

The radical self expression of youth is being captured via pop-up technicolour studios across northern England, thanks to Casey Orr of Saturday Town Photo. We’ve been lucky enough to work with Casey on projects in Whitehaven and Barrow this year and her enthusiasm for our communities in West Cumbria is both refreshing and contagious:

Hi Casey can you tell us a little bit about you as a person and an artist?

I am Casey Orr (she,they), photographer and artist. I am originally from the United States and have been exploring and photographing The UK for 30 years with my camera. I take pictures to find out about the world, to form and answer questions. I photograph so that I can see. I live in Yorkshire.
As well as photographing youth culture with my Saturday Town pop up portrait studio this questioning has taken me across the North Atlantic Ocean by containership, throughout the USA, UK and Europe photographing anarchists, behind the walls of HMP Leeds Prison, and into the lives of the many people I collaborate with through portraiture.

You’re best known for your amazing photos of youth culture – what is it that appeals to you about documenting youth and why do you think it’s important?

I have so much to say about this! Young people are stating their values, identities and culture through the playful and sophisticated language that is fashion. Seen together, as a series of portraits, we can read the story of who we are, where we’ve been and where we are going as a society. This story is about where we are in human evolution. We all share this language that is at once steeped in culture, history and memory, and is also inherently fluid. Fashion is a an important and powerful tool for us all, to state who we are beyond consumerism and capitalism; beyond selfies and social media platforms. There is so much creativity out there and It is worn, as a playful sophisticated language. Young folks are speaking the future shape of us. The people I photograph are approached on the street, in the moment. Taking these photographs continues to excite me as it evolves and refers to the times in which we live, as well as a shared past that is reinvented and flows through new generations.

Are there any particular themes that are important for you to explore in your work?

I am interested in how culture, tribe identities and values burst forth, whether we are conscious of this or not, in the unspoken language of fashion and bodily self-expression. I have photographed hundreds of people in every region of the UK for over 10 years. There are themes that surface from the photographs. I wonder of this work can ever be objective but I am trying to bear witness, to find out as an objective surveyor and at the same time, of course, who I am interested in is a reflection of myself. The main themes I’ve identified are Matching Best Friends; Twins and ‘Twinning’, Animals; Pets and Wild Beasts, Witches; Nature Spirits and Godlings, Luxury; Brands and High Fashion, Knock Offs and Dupes, Retro Vintage; Charity Shops and Thrifting, Queer Everything; Identities Beyond the Binary, Punks, Mods and Rockers; Subcultures from the past. 

You have a particular interest in northern communities. Why is that? 

The North is its own country with a distinct history of creative innovation, of radical thought and action, of art and creativity.  The legacy of The Industrial Revolution continues to interact with landscape, with the ancient and the modern, with music and culture that has shaped and changed the world. I am endlessly fascinated by photographing this.

How does queerness interact with your work? 

Queerness is wild, brave, fluid, playful, defiant, creative and beautiful in so many ways. I have always been drawn to the punks and radical fun seekers, the anarchists and ancients, as tribe, as family, as self. My work in this world is to celebrate this, to see these folks who I so resonate with. I am a photographer and my job is to make people visible. To engage with the fundamental power of seeing and being seen by others as a way to connect people. I photograph people so that they can feel seen, be seen, see others, connect and, ultimately, form community and change the world. The future is queer. That is my understanding!

We love your photos because we think they capture youth movements at a really important moment in time, when queerness is being challenged but at the same time flourishing. Would you agree? 

Yes! There is a rising up and a backlash both. I’ve witnessed the rising up of the queer identities in the Saturday Town studio, the collapse of binaries, of gender. To see this limiting idea of what a person can be fall away in matter of years is a revolution for us all. And it threatens power. We are a time of upheaval and change and there is so much turmoil but also hope and this can be read on young folks! 

You worked with us at Whitehaven Pride and then we came with you to Barrow Market for this amazing photo shoot. What are your thoughts on these West Cumbrian towns?

It is so interesting to me to photograph in these towns where the wild land meets the wild sea. I am just beginning the work but already I wonder if young folks are more in tune with land, with seasons and natural rhythms of place in communities working in agriculture and how this might be expressed through the self, through identity while also being connected to wider community through social media, through the internet where we often find our people, our tribes who aren’t in the local. What is carried through ancestry, on the wind and driving rain? What is shared as generational? What is specific about this place? I don’t know. I am here to find out!

Is there anything that stands out about queer youth in Cumbria compared to other places in Northern England?

This is an exciting question as I’ve worked alot in the Northern towns since the pandemic and there is so much queer identity everywhere! So many folks choosing their names, identifying as trans and non binary and this has grown so much compared to, say, 7 years ago or even 4 years ago. There is a more expansive identity emerging and this just seems to grow and become more fluid, more free and queer.


QC are so excited to have someone like you working in the county, do you have more plans to work up here in the future?

Yes! I am working with Queer Cumbria and Signal Film and Media in Barrow in Furness this next year. Collaboration is where its at and there are some very exciting plans and ways to get involved being cooked up! This work is about the people of the region and can’t happen without the creativity of queer Cumbrian folks! Watch this space!

You have also explored themes such as feminism and witchcraft in your work, are there any themes you haven’t covered yet that you’d really like to delve into?

Our ancient selves are emerging and converging with our future selves. There is a party for us! My theme is what will we wear?

Any parting message for the readers of Queer Cumbria?

I am loving finding out about queer Cumbria. I am interested in all the fashionable folks out there and planning future shoots. I hope to see you all when I’m next in the region. Watch this space for opportunities to get involved!

Images Casey Orr

Words Stevie Westgarth