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The Age of Adolescence


Last summer I featured a lot of vintage photographs of children and teenagers from the 50s and 60s--there is something quintessentially summery about youth in rebellion and ennui. Another photographer that focused on the American teenager in the fifties and sixties that perfectly captures this moment and experience: Joseph Sterling. The Age of Adolescence is photographic masterwork of documentation of the life and milieu of the American teenager, that wonderfully shows the contradictions of almost adulthood and the range of emotions each teenagers holds inside. I love how the viewer feels like an outsider creeping on a private moment in so many of his pictures; we are the dark pant-legged strangers lurking above girls at the beach or an even less identified stranger, but clear outsider by our frame of a store window or roof of a car--we are on the outside looking in at all of Sterling's subjects. We observe these American teenagers in their natural habitats of the soda shop and park, we see their intimate interactions as they cuddle or sip soda, but in the end we're only scratching the surface.