The lurid title sounds deceptive, but there's really not all that much lust in "Teenage Lust," Larry Clark's second classic book of photography. For the most part, it continues in the autobiographical vein of "Tulsa," his first work. Many people from "Tulsa," including the two principal characters, also appear here. Some of the photographs here were clearly taken at the same time as some of those from "Tulsa." For instance, the picture of Roper drawing and aiming a gun across a room is reprised, except now his hand is lowered.
But "Teenage Lust" is a much more free-form kind of work than "Tulsa." It lacks the tight thematic focus of its predecessor, the grainy aesthetic, and the mystique. On the contrary, here Clark seems determined to expose the whole backstory behind the images in both books. There are many more captions, as well as excerpts of newspaper articles about Clark's run-ins with the law, and the book ends with a very long, ranting stream-of-consciousness text telling the story of Clark's entire life. This actually somewhat lessens the dramatic impact of the work, because it gets in the way of the images, keeping them from telling the whole story.
As the book goes on, it draws away from the characters of "Tulsa" and turns to teenage runaways, photographed by Clark in various cities and hotels. It is here that the book takes on the theme expressed in its title; where "Tulsa" was dark and frightening, "Teenage Lust" just has a kind of wistful sadness about it. This part of the book is surprisingly lyrical; even in the most disturbing situations, it seems to suggest that a kind of gentleness is present, as if the characters don't really intend to use or hurt one another, but rather are trying to attain oblivion together.
Many images are brilliant. The one of the three young people under the waterfall is almost light-hearted, perfectly capturing a sense of blissful abandon. There's a stark photograph of a couple in a dark room, bringing out the tangible drabness of their surroundings in contrast to their fleeting pleasure. The cover image might be Clark's most iconic photograph; the girl's face isn't very attractive or interesting or memorable, but the moment imparts it with great fragility, and the photograph is still feverish over twenty years later. The one of the two young men and the girl in the hotel room would have been horrifying, if not for the girl's strangely vacant expression, which turns it into an illustration of the self-destructive, careless intoxication that Clark has always seen in youth.
Ultimately, whatever weaknesses "Teenage Lust" may have compared to "Tulsa," it is an equally powerful document. Unfortunately, while "Tulsa" has been reprinted in an affordable edition, "Teenage Lust" has not been, and so your best bet would be looking at auctions or old curiousity shops.