Expectations of Growth
PHOTOGRAPHY- NAPIER '18
Expectations of Growth is a series of portraits, shot on 5x4, of a group of Scottish 15-year-olds. The subjects were photographed weeks before their 16th birthday which marks the day they gain the right to sexual consent. The series consists of ten portraits, and was a response to the sex scandal that hit the news in 2017.
"Despite already being aware of gender-based imbalance in our society, hearing countless stories of misconduct and abuse was both shocking and empowering for me. Seeing this issue finally being addressed was incredibly stimulating, and in many ways this project served as a response to the dialogue that sparked from it.
Quite early on in my research, I had the sudden realisation that the current generation of 15-year-olds was going to be the very first to gain the right to sexual consent in the wake of the MeToo movement. They're part of a new generation talking about sex and gender-based abuse in a more open, informed and hopefully educated way.
The age of sexual consent differs from country to country, so in many ways, it can be considered an arbitrary point of transition in someone’s life. At the same time, it serves as a point of no-return from a legal perspective- a step closer to adulthood. This seemed to me like a fundamental and powerful turning point for both my subjects and my photographic research to start from”.
Since the only direction Lara gave her subjects was for them to not look at the camera, this choice enabled her to preserve their individuality within the frame. The portraits were all shot on location, either in schools or at the model’s home, against a portable velvet background to keep the aesthetic consistent.
"Much like the work from Laura Pannack and Nelli Palimaki that inspired me so much when looking for conceptual references, the series lies somewhere between a documentary and a fine art project. I have always been interested in private and intimate photo-stories which draw the audience in and engages them with much larger and more complex social and political issues. I wanted to address an issue as wide and rooted in our culture as the ones we have seen unfold during MeToo.
These faces express a variety of emotions: they may appear calm, fierce, shy, confused. Many of the people who saw this project couldn’t quite put their finger on whether they thought the portraits depicted children or adults. The duality between adulthood and childhood, fearlessness and vulnerability, became the centre of the project and a question that I’m still quite fascinated by".
The images were printed at the same size the negative was shot on, sandwiched between sheets of acrylic glass and placed into shelves hanging away from the wall, making for a small and intimate presentation, urging the viewer to interact closely with the work.
"When imagining the work on a wall, I wanted my audience to walk towards it and look closely at the details of the image and the expressions of each sitter. The idea of the ‘sandwiched’ print between glass came after researching the preservation of specimen, often kept (in a similar way). Much like a rare specimen, the photographs of the kids are preserved behind glass to highlight the fragility of the transition that the sitters find themselves in.
In hindsight, I can see how this project was a way for me to make sense of all the thoughts I was having when reading countless harassment, rape and abuse claims. At what point does a man learn that it is ok for him to mentally and physically abuse others in the workplace as well as in private? When do we start holding people accountable? How can we teach the next generation that this is unacceptable, when this issue is already poisoning every sphere of our society? Are they already part of these structures? Can we draw a line in the sand and say “enough” once and for all? How do we teach the next generation to see and understand that line"?
"Ultimately, this project is a documentation and interpretation of the many questions surrounding a transitioning period, not just for the teenagers transitioning into adulthood, but for the society around them, becoming a fairer and more conscious one to grow up in".
Go deeper behind the scenes by visiting Lara's website laracappelli.com or follow @_laracappelli_
You can also buy Lara’s beautiful prints here.