18/08/2014 11:05 BST | Updated 16/10/2014 06:59 BST

Young London - Who We Really Are

The term 'young adult' has no clear boundaries. A search within Google conjures up many hits with several definitions and age categories. Despite in the UK the 'adult' age is reached at 18 years old, it would appear many define a young adult as being from the ages 16 - 24 years.

A rather broad age span if you ask me. Within it, one can leave high-school, drink and buy alcohol, enter university, obtain a degree and be in a full time job come the age of 24. One may have even married and be settled down with two children.

And so, according to this definition, I have been a 'young adult' for approximately seven years. Soon I will be classified as something new: perhaps a 'middle adult' or simply 'an adult.' Whatever category I may fit into, I will ultimately lose that negativity that is too often associated with the term 'young adult'.

Although above I listed several positive characteristics, unfortunately these are constantly replaced and forgotten when referring to the young adult. A politician, a policeman, the general public are quick to judge, place blame and identify the young who are causing problems today. If it isn't related to crime, it is to do with unemployment. If it isn't the unemployment rates, it is the number of young adults being admitted to hospitals for drunkenness and/or drugs.

If the young do receive praise, any good behaviour or achievement is regarded as something as rare as a blue moon. The man/woman often appears utterly astonished that someone 'so young' could do 'such a brilliant thing.' Not to belittle great achievements that so many have done, but it is this patronising undertone I am fed up with; as if one in every 3,000 'young adults' do good while the others cause trouble.

You can imagine the excitement then when I came across Young London, part of the 99% Campaign. The campaign highlights the normality of young people's actions and day to day activities. That in contrast to what the media portray, it is not rare for a young adult to be positively active in society.

In an interview for HuffPost Students UK with the creator of Young London, Joe Newman explained the 99% Campaign's mission:

'... to make the UK more inclusive, fair and responsive to young people's views and contribution... by giving a voice to the most marginalised young people and dispelling negative stereotypes. The campaign challenges disadvantage thinking about young people and instead promotes their positive stories.'

For those of you who have not heard of or seen the work of Joe's 'Young London' project, I urge you to take a look. Joe photographs strangers on the street, beautifully capturing the moment of a young man or woman, beaming with a great smile or simply looking into the camera.


In Joe's own words: 'the blog is a photographic census of young people in London, which through the use of portraits and interviews tries to capture and document a wide demographic of young people's perspectives on society and their own life.'

You can find a political activist, an American waitress, a Brixton resident, a Bangladeshi graduate, an ice-cream man all relaying a story or voicing an opinion. Joe wanted to 'capture an alternative and often overlooked group of people in their work... this group of people in London [is] particularly overlooked and ignored.'


A representation of a wide demographic is exactly what he has achieved. The blog clearly highlights the diversity within London. Along with this diversity comes variability in opinion and actions, something that is once again rarely considered amongst the 'young adult' category.


The classic stereotype of a student is another image Joe is trying to dispel. Once a student in Leeds himself, the locals always labelled him and his friends as 'lazy and obnoxious party animals who just drank, made a lot of noise and did nothing else.'

'This annoyed me very much'., he says, 'many [students] were extremely pro-active and contributed a lot towards the local community.'

While Joe's blog and the 99% Campaign continue to identify those who clearly abolish the negative stereotype of the young adult, they are inevitably only reaching a small percentage of the population.

I really believe (maybe naively some would say) that there are thousands more out there, like those featured on the blog who are contributing in some way, big or small, to society or their community. We just don't know who they are.

But as Joe rightly says, it is up to us, the young adult population, to 'portray [our]selves the best way [we] can' and to get our voices heard; so it no longer becomes rare but the norm. This way, along with the help of Young London and new blogs such as Young Manchester and Young Bristol we can really change the idea of a young adult.