Perhaps the hardest part of being a teenager is knowing that everyone sees what you’re going through; your body is changing and you don’t exactly know where you fit, but the world has you pegged and believes it knows exactly how you feel.
The two girls, Kate and Julia, in photographer Blake Fitch’s series, “Expectations of Adolescence,” are easy to relate to: Their friendship and their emotions transmit quickly through the pictures, but with added illumination, as though the photographs brought out inner reserves of self-possession.
Blake Fitch was born in Rochester, N.Y., in 1971. She has photographed extensively in the United States, as well as Central and South America. Grants and sponsorships include support from Kodak and Calumet Photographic. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is held in the collections of several museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The George Eastman House of Photography, and the Worcester Art Museum. “Expectations of Adolescence” was shown at Clamp Art in March-April 2009. All images copyright Blake Fitch, all rights reserved.
How did the project begin for you, Kate, and Julia? Was the challenge new to you, shooting the same subjects over a long period of time?
I didn’t set out to begin a long-term project. It really evolved over time, and after some years I realized that it had become something more focused. It began as a more general study of adolescent girls, i.e. Kate and Julia, some of their friends, and other girls I knew. However, I realized that what I was really interested in were the lives of Kate and Julia, as these were girls I was close to, cared for, and could personally identify with.
I always found the project new and interesting. The majority of the images have been taken during family holidays and vacations, either at our family’s vacation home on the St. Lawrence River or at our grandparents’ home in Rochester. I only saw the girls a few times each year. During this time they would get a bit older and their lives evolved. So, something new was always going on.
Adolescence is something we can relate to, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s a very solitary experience. How have Kate and Julia reacted to seeing their pictures over time?
They seem to have always enjoyed being part of the process. When they were younger, they thought it was cool to be the subject of my pictures and at times came up with their own interesting photo ideas for the series. Now that they are young women out of college, they value the body of work as a whole because it chronicles a special time in their lives that they can now reflect on.
Was photography a part of your own adolescence?
My parents, and in particular my mother, took a lot of photographs of my sister Emily and I growing up. The camera seemed to be around a lot and somehow it piqued my interest, and I began taking pictures of our tight-knit family as well. I still have the shoe boxes filled with photos from our swim meets, camping trips, and that sort of thing. When I was in high school, I got more serious about photography and enrolled in a series of photo classes, which led to my application to Pratt where I went to college.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’ve been working on a number of different things. I began a series of images called “Relationships,” which are portraits of women, roughly my age, and portraits of the men they have been in love with as they look for a “soul mate.”
I still have a pull to occasionally photograph Kate and Julia. As young women working at their first jobs, they are at an exciting and interesting part of their lives. I’m really proud of them.