Friday, 3 October 2014

Being young and visible, my ‘Youth @ Findhorn’ project.

Youth. Young people. Gosh, it’s easy to forget we’ve all been young ourselves, as every generation seems to express this period in life in its own, new way, don’t we?  Before last year, when I saw youngsters at the bus stop, hidden under their hoods, it sometimes made me feel uncomfortable. It is easy to imagine some people even being scared of them. Then I remembered my own teenage years, which were the worst of my life. I was a girl living in the countryside, going to school in a small village. I was so unhappy, so insecure, so damaged and I tried to hide it by acting the opposite way. I remember a photo made when I was 15, and now I feel a lot of compassion for the girl I was then. Without judgement or rejection. When you have children, you often relive these years during their adolescence, but I don’t have nor live with young people myself here.

So this all made me want to get to know more about the young people of nowadays. The modern youth around me is living in a rural area like I do. I felt curious (and courageous at times) to photograph and interview them and make a project of it: ‘Youth @ Findhorn’.

Many people around me in Findhorn know my photographic work of landscapes, flowers, seascapes; they know my community event photos and books. Why suddenly people? They ask. But In the past I photographed —in waves— nature (non-human part) and people. Activists, female farmers, 50+ women, habitants of a rural village, and some of these projects have become books. Working with people can be intense, satisfying as well as demanding, I tell you; a flower does not commend or resist being portrayed. Humans or nature, in either situation I have to connect from my heart with them to get the best results.

The young people I contacted I then interviewed with questions about their situation at the moment, at home, education or work; their hopes and aspirations for their future; how it is to live in a village, especially in Findhorn? I had to have the written agreement of their parents, who also, like the portrayed themselves, read back the interview, and together we made corrections if needed. They were involved in the choice of the end result photograph and they saw the edited summary of the text. In most cases this was a graceful process. Some people did not want to be part of the project and some others withdrew during, alas.

Looking back I think the young people shown in the series were very brave. The series shows their hopes, their sometimes insecurity but often their strength and wisdom. It felt like an honour to make them visible and to help other people to get to know this group better. As some visitors at the exhibition at the Moray Art Centre wrote as feedback  “Extraordinary & deeply inspiring work. Mesmerising” or “Thank you for giving a very interesting insight into this unusual and privileged group of children.”

I indeed wanted to allow these wonderful young people to be seen and heard. Last September (2013) I showed a small part of the series in the Universal Hall, these two last weeks I exhibited an extended series in the Moray Art Centre (24 September – 5 October 2014); which was part of the 1st Findhorn Bay Art festival last weekend. In the Scottish newspaper Press & Journal there is an interview (Monday 29 September).

October 2014, photos & text © Adriana Sjan Bijman

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