Tag Archives: Coming Of Age

Ellen Wallenstein

New York photographer, Ellen Wallenstein‘s ideas and interests navigate in and out of all sorts of interesting arenas, and maybe that is just part of being a New Yorker where inspiration is never an issue.  Her bodies of work reflect a broad range of approaches and subjects from projects such as Dead Men from New Fairfield, CT, Ellis Island Self Portraits, Pocketbook of Drag Queens, and the project I am featuring today, Respecting My Elders. Ellen is an engaged photographer, teaching photography and book arts at School of Visual Arts and Pratt and writes articles and book reviews for PDNedu and Fraction magazines. She received  a B.A. in art history from SUNY Stony Brook and an M.F.A. in photography from Pratt Institute and was nominated for the Santa Fe Prize in 2011.

Her project, Respecting My Elders, Ellen was supported by UnitedStatesArtists.org, a “micro-philanthropy” which supports artists projects across the country. She raised funds for an upcoming website and a first catalogue of (26) portraits of creative elders, which should be in print by the end of the year. She will be giving a public talk on her portraits at the Center for Alternative Photography/Penumbra Foundation  in NYC, on October 23rd. (It will be streamed live, as well)

Respecting My Elders:
I most often work on long-term documentary projects that mesh into the fabric of
my daily life. For the last few years I’ve been making portraits of older people in
their environments.”

Respecting My Elders” is a collection of color portraits of creative individuals over the age of eighty, photographed in their homes and studios. They are artists and intellectuals born at the turn of the last century, whose wisdom and insight are important to our nation.

Editta Sherman, b. 1912 photographer, nyc 2009

Known as The Greatest Generation, and coming of age between the two World Wars, the effect of their contributions upon future generations is evident in their productions. These include books, poems, paintings, photographs, plays and performances, as well as important breakthroughs in education, philanthropy and the sciences. I believe these persons deserve to be celebrated: my photographs are meant to capture their spirit and beauty, and to inspire admiration by future generations.
A. R. Gurney, b. 1930, playwright, roxbury, ct 2010
The photography sessions become collaborations between my sitters, many of who pose with objects of significance, and myself. I work alone, with a handheld camera in natural light. 
David Vestal, b. 1924, photographer, bethlehem, ct 2008

This endeavor builds upon a previous project, “Opus for Anne,” which documented three years of weekly visits to an elderly Hospice patient who became a close friend. After she died I felt inspired to contact others of her generation who had influenced me artistically and intellectually.

Dr. Billy Taylor, b.1921, jazz musician-educator, riverdale, ny 2009

I began in a “sixdegrees- of-separation” manner, starting with my mother and her circle, asking friends and colleagues for suggestions and introductions, as well as contacting strangers I was interested in meeting. This led me to some fascinating people who in turn recommended me to their friends and colleagues.

Edward Albee,b. 1928, playwright, NYC 2010
I’ve been taking these portraits slowly but steadily, as I continue my teaching. I feel that this project is going to be my life’s work.

Francine du Plessix Gray, b. 1930, writer, warren, ct 2010

James Earl Jones, b. 1931,actor, nyc 2012
Joan Copeland, b. 1922, actress, nyc 2010
Milton Glaser, b. 1929, graphic designer, nyc 2009

Ned Rorem, b. 1923, composer/writer, nyc 2010

Richard Howard, b. 1929, poet, nyc 2010
Romulus Linney, b. 1930, playwright, nyc 2010

Rosalind Soloman,b. 1930, photographer, nyc 2011

Will Barnet, b. 1911, painter, nyc 2010

Wolf Kahn,b. 1927, painter, nyc 2010

Jena Cumbo

Brooklyn photographer, Jena Cumbo, is an engaged observer, whether shooting her fine art, fashion, lifestyle, or commissioned work. Jena received a BFA from the Hartford Art School  and received an MFA in Photography from the State University at Buffalo. After graduation, she began working as an assistant to many established photographers, including Lauren Greenfield, and in 2009, went out on her own.



Her on-going series, Prom Project, is the telling of an age old defining night of high school, between the time of what was and what will be, and Jena was there to capture the anticipation and drama. Her images reflect the excitement of that special dressed-up night, where the ending has yet to unfold, and hope is still palatable.



Prom Project: In 2010, I met a group of girls who were interested in having professional photos taken of them getting ready for the prom. I gladly accepted the job. Since then, my work has moved ever-deeper into the realm of youthful fashion and light-hearted lifestyle photography. 

Rites of passage and young girls coming-of-age are topics that have been photographed seemingly ad infinitum, yet this subject matter seems to be an endless source of fascination in the media and art worlds. 

This 2012 prom season I decided to embark on a journey to find a variety of young women in the NY city area with different backgrounds and identities to photograph as they prepare for and take part in the experience of prom.

I photographed a variety of girls getting ready for prom, two actual proms, and an after prom party. Every girl and experience was truly unique. I was fascinated by how ritualistic the getting ready process had become. Everyone I photographed did not attend school the day of or the day after prom, most started getting ready early in the day for evening dances. 

While the styles and looks differed immensely from girl to girl the bonding experience between the friends was a thread that wove throughout the series. 

Senior prom is a very definitive right of passage for high school students. Fashion can be an incredible outlet of self-expression, prom in such becomes the perfect platform for young people to display and flaunt their personal style and identity. Prom is truly their time to shine and an experience that’s meant to be photographed and remembered


Inside the World of Turkish Oil Wrestling

The sport ofyal gre, or oil wrestling,is at the heart ofKrkpnar, afestival in the Turkish city of Edirne. Thousands of people will come to see these wrestlersslick with olive oilcompete in the 651stannual games on July 2. Itll be a familiar sight for Turkish photographer Pari Dukovic, who attended the event in 2010 and 2011.

I saw that the sport had an Old World charm to itthe festival, the prayers, the music, the instruments, the outfits, says Pari, who used to watch the festivals coverage as a teenager. I am drawn to subject matter that makes you feel as though you are traveling through time andKrkpnarfascinated me with its history and how it has remained an integral part of Turkish culture.

As the festival begins, drum and horn players parade through the city with the sports grand prizethe Krkpnar Golden Belt. The community then meets in the grand 16thcentury Selimiye Mosque, where the imam gives a sermon in honor of competitors past and present.For the young boys participating in the traditional Turkish coming-of-age ceremony known asSunnet Dugunu, its desirable to celebrate it at the same time asKrkpnar, as the festival represents to many the ultimate in male achievement. The boy in the mosque in slide #10 wears the ornate cape associated with the ritual.

After the sermon, wrestlers pray at the graves of legendary sportsmen and proceed through the streets to the competition field, singing the national anthem. The master of ceremony introduces the wrestlers to the audience, reciting their names, titles and skills in verse. Cheap Digital Cable TV . Very few of the wrestlers, who range widely in age, make a living from the sport. Nevertheless, Pari says hegot the clear sense that being a part of this event is a dream come true for them. They train for a whole year and often travel from villages all over Turkey to participate, so becoming aKrkpnarwrestler is an achievement they take great pride in, he says.The wrestlers, wearing nothing but short leather trousers, get rubbed down with olive oil. This makes the goal of the matchto throw ones opponent on his backall the more difficult. The matches last about 30 minutes each, while the final bout can last up to two exhausting hours.

I think the dedication that goes into what they do is amazing, says Pari. I hope that my photographs stand as visual documents of this tradition and that my respect is captured in these images.

Pari Dukovic is a New York City based documentary photographer. See more of his work here.

Coming of Age in America: The Photography of Joseph Szabo

Joseph Szabo has photographed teenagers for the past four decades. His images perfectly capture the nuances and emotions of adolescence, and they document his subjects in moments of uncertainty, reflection, longing, bravado, exuberance and awkwardness as they dip a toe into the waters of adulthood.

As Cornell Capa wrote in the foreword of Szabo’s first book, Almost Grown, “Szabo’s camera is sharp, incisive, and young, matching his subjects. One can use many adjectives: revealing, tender, raucous, sexy, showy… in Szabo’s hands, the camera is magically there, the light is always available, the moment is perceived, seen, and caught.”

Over the last 40 years, Szabo has quietly built a reputation and cult following as the quintessential photographer of the teenager. While he has published books and had gallery shows, an exhibition at the Heckscher Museum, in Huntington, New York, that opens this month marks Szabo’s first major retrospective. Appropriately located on Long Island—where the majority of the work was made—the show draws from the photographer’s extensive archive and features images from his four books: Almost Grown, Teenage, Rolling Stones Fans and Jones Beach.  Work from his recently rediscovered suburban landscape series Hometown are also on display.

The setting for his first museum show is also significant because Szabo was a young art teacher at Malverne High School, in Long Island, in the early 1970s. He began photographing his disinterested and undisciplined teenage students as a way to connect with them, and Szabo found himself drawn to the kids, gaining a sense of what was happening in their lives. “It was always the emotional aspect I was looking for,” Szabo said in a recent documentary called The Joseph Szabo Project. “I wanted them to express who they are. There’s a beauty to that honesty, and I wanted to get below the surface to reflect their lives in a nonjudgmental way.” The resulting body of work, which starts in the classroom before branching out to the school grounds, parties and Jones Beach, is a celebration of teenage experience. Or as Szabo describes it: “The years of restless desire and blossoming sexuality. The world of high school, parking lots and street corners, and the uniquely American culture in which all of us have grown up.”

Szabo’s images are a candid document of coming of age in small towns and suburban America. “You try to capture life in the moment that speaks to you,” he says in the Joseph Szabo Project. “They are fleeting—one moment it’s there and then its gone.” His intimate and iconic images are picture-perfect proof of these fleeting moments—memories magically captured and frozen forever.

Coming of Age in America: The Photography of Joseph Szabo is on display at the Heckscher Museum of Art, Long Island, New York through March 25.

To see more of Joseph Szabo’s work on LightBox, click here.

Bright Young Things: Andrea Morales Wins TIME’s Next Generation Photography Contest

This fall, TIME invited student photographers dedicated to honing their craft—whether it be photojournalism, portraiture, still life, conceptual or fine art—to submit a portfolio of photos for review by our editors. All applicants had to be currently enrolled students or members of the class of 2011. After receiving hundreds of entries, the editors chose Andrea Morales as the winner of the inaugural competition.

Though they grew up on opposite sides of the country, Morales saw much of herself and her two younger sisters in the Glouster girls she photographed for Extracted Dreams, Implanted Realities, a series that examines the coming of age for young women in the southeast Ohio city. “It’s a project filled with daily things that happen when you’re growing up anywhere,” says the photographer. A Master’s candidate at the visual communication program at Ohio University, in Athens, Morales won the top prize of $2,500 and a portfolio review with the magazine’s photo editors.

Morales met many of the young women she photographed while roaming the streets in early 2009, and she has spent the majority of the last three years documenting them. The young women face poverty, drug abuse among family members and crime—all while attending class in Ohio’s poorest school district. As the project progressed, some of the girls’ parents began to see Morales as a mentor, which put the photographer in an unfamiliar situation. “It became this weird thing for a while because I come from a strict journalism background,” the photographer says. “But I totally care about these girls like crazy…I don’t know if I’m able to help them through my photographs. But I know I’m able to help them by being there for them.”

First runner up Christian Hansen, a senior at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, showcased a collection of personal work taken since 2006 from places ranging from California to Canada. “It’s mostly from going on road trips and traveling around,” he says. “I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about what I was trying to get or what I was trying to do. I just know what I like and I did it all based on feeling.”

Second runner up Brad Vest, also a Master’s candidate at the visual communication program at Ohio University, presented Adrift, a series that follows Travis Simmons’ struggles to stay off drugs and out of jail. Vest has captured the young father’s story since October 2009. “What drew me to his story was that it was always changing,” Vest says. “Initially I thought it would be a great story because it was a young guy who’d made some bad decisions early on, and was getting out, trying to start new. I thought it would be a great way to document the process of trying to start over.”

These three photographers’ work explored just a fraction of the subject matter covered in the entries TIME received during the contest call. And while not every entrant’s work could be displayed, the editors hope that this begins a dialogue with new talent that we hope to mentor over the next year.

Krisanne Johnson Awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography

Coming of age for Swazi girls is tough. A tiny African nation of one million, Swaziland is ruled by one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies. Its age-old tradition of polygamy and its relaxed attitude toward sexuality have met in a devastating combination for women: Swaziland reports the highest percentage of HIV positive people in the world, with young women being affected most. Half of young Swazi women are HIV positive, and life expectancy has dropped from 61 years to almost 31 years over the past ten years.

Every year, young maidens from across the country gather for the Umhlanga dance, an eight-day ceremony in honor of the Queen Mother to celebrate their virginity. I first went to Swaziland in 2006 to document this annual dance and other coming of age rites of young women living amid a spreading disease and its victims—women who, even in the face of such staggering odds and deep uncertainty, still possess all the energy and enthusiasm of youth. My goal was to capture the nuances that comprise a human, rather than simply tragic, experience.

Over the past five years, the progression of this work has moved from traditional rites of passage to modern youth culture to an intimate look inside the homes of HIV-positive women. My insights have matured along with these young women. It has allowed me to witness fast-tracked intimacy and friends lost and gained. It has made me see that girls here are constantly on the verge––of giving birth to burying best friends, of finding love to fighting for life alone, stigmatized and heartbroken.

These moments in my interactions with young Swazi women remind me of the complicated, frustrating, and deeply human nature of their predicaments, choices and desires. I’ve seen childhood friends reconnect across beds in a hospice, one of which was fighting the inevitable with her lone T-cell—her “one soldier.” I’ve watched innumerable women leave their rural homes to look for nonexistent work near the city, knowing that they will make easy prey for older men who will support them for sex. I’ve photographed a young HIV-positive woman who refuses to take medication out of fear it would indicate to others her impending death. Instead, she tells me about her dreams of joining the army to earn “money like dust” to support herself and her newborn child, joking in the same breath about how she probably won’t make it to twenty and see me on my next trip back. It is difficult to comprehend how she so easily accepts the contradictions in her life. That her own mother is too scared to tell her daughter or any of her friends that she herself has started anti-retroviral treatment—out of fear of gossip and isolation—seems to underscore the frustrating reality that for every step forward, there is a step back.

And that’s the thing: there isn’t a single story, just frustrating inconsistencies. Yet on each trip, I still find a sense of hope for what the future might hold, even as they navigate this narrow bridge between life and death.

Krisanne Johnson has been working on long-term personal projects about young women and HIV/AIDS in Swaziland and post-apartheid South African youth culture since 2006. Her work has appeared in various publications, including TIME, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, among others. I Love You Real Fast is on display through Nov. 26 at The Half King in New York City.