What was it like to be a teenager in the 1970s? Is it any different now? This is what the new exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery is trying to show. Through two photographic series made five decades apart, we get to see the beauty and uncertainty of adolescence shifting magically both now and then.
A colour photograph showing teenage girls casually eating takeaway pizza in the street in the middle of the night, right next to a black and white picture displaying a young couple smoking. Untethered features the work of American and British photographers Joe Szabo and Siân Davey.
Joe Szabo began his series in the early 1970s when he was teaching art in Long Island. He started photographing his students at school, but also at home and in several other locations outside. His capturing of moments, faces, and bodies in movement make his powerful depiction of youth in the seventies and eighties timeless.
British photographer Davey shot hers in Devon. Inspired by her step-daughter Martha and her friends, her work is mostly focused on teenage girls. Interested in the relational aspects of adolescence, her pictures are often tender and revealing. In an interview, she confessed being fascinated “with this developmental stage when a child starts to individuate and separate from their parents.”
Both photographers focus on the body as it often incarnates the complex and confusing transition from childhood and adulthood.
Davey went on explaining: “During this period of transition, there is a very short and specific ‘window’ when a person can behave in a way, which is free of the weight of societal expectations and norms. Before too long the window closes and we can forget how it felt to be ‘untethered’.”
Aware of the ambivalent nature of this difficult, sometimes painful period of transition, Szabo and Davey managed to develop a high level of trust with their subjects, resulting in a fascinating depiction of the universal state of adolescence.
Untethered will run until 20 May 2017 at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London SW3.
Words: Pauline Schnoebelen
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