Young Americans Make Their Mark

A little notoriety is worth the risk to millennials seeking fame.

By Carlin Flora, published on March 1, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

"Reskew," is a prolific and talented graffiti artist. He's wanted by police in Florida and is on probation in New York City.

The thrill of the illicit supercharges Reskew's quest for artistic glory. "I've got a personality that's addicted to drama. I like the martyrdom of 'they're wrong and I'm right,'" he says of the nocturnal cat-and-mouse game he plays with the cops. After he's climbed a billboard, snuck into a subway tunnel, or swung from the beams of an elevated train track, Reskew always sprays his tag in colored bubble letters (even when there's no time to create an intricate design), so everyone will know he was there.

"In the graffiti community, putting yourself out there is the main thing," he says. "If I don't do anything, I feel like a nobody. But if my name sticks in someone's head and then he meets me, it's like I'm a celebrity."

In his book of photo essays, One Hundred Young Americans, Michael Franzini delivers a rich survey of today's culturally segmented, MySpace-inhabiting, text message-obsessed youth. It includes a shot of Reskew with his artwork.

"We made a point of getting every possible kind of kid—from a skinhead waiting for a racial holy war, to a guy who wakes up early every morning to go shrimping before school, to a kid who calls himself a vampire," Franzini says.

A trait nearly all these teenagers share, though, is a desire to be famous. "This generation is inundated with reality TV—with people just like them, except well known," Franzini says. "And they seem to have a high need for recognition and approval."