||Expectations of Adolescence
Blake Fitch’s “Expectations of Adolescence”
is a remarkable collection of photographs for many reasons.
It documents, over the course of ten years, the growing-up of two cousins
less than a year apart in age, seen only during large family reunions
in the same two timeless settings of their grandparents’ ornately
decorated New England home or the family’s summer place on the water.
We do not know these two young women outside of these family meetings
during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and summer holidays. But we can
watch them interact, grow and change, relax (or feel anxiety) in these
settings outside day-to-day life, and in moments of introspection. We
see them as they grow up, become more and more themselves, chafing perhaps
at the obligations implied by required attendance in surroundings of upper-crust
comfort that remain unchanged and constant.
Fitch shows us two adolescent girls experimenting with trying on new identities,
breaking out or fitting in to the preconceptions and roles for which they’ve
both been groomed. Here we see an emergence of those identities. First,
Julia and Katie appear to be twins as they prepare to practice a music
lesson together. But very soon, we see them as individuals growing up
in parallel — and branching off.
Adolescence can be a time of magic, imagining all of the possibilities,
and a time of unfettered dreams. It can also be a time riddled with doubt,
controlled or tainted by the constraints of peer groups, family and society.
High-reaching ideals can lift expectations to see limitless possibilities.
At the same time, constraints of the times and “reality” can
force dreams into nightmarish times of self-doubt.
Here we see, compressed, thanks to photography, and a good eye behind
the lens: innocence, ease, confusion, resistance, defiance, differentiation.
“This is not who I am, really, don’t you know?”
We are also treated to the delight of ornately decorated rooms (isn’t
the wallpaper wonderful?) that serve as back-drop for this documentation.
While Katie and Julia grow from skinny kids eagerly confiding with each
other (on an outdoor porch in summertime), to young women (perhaps comparing
notes on college, husbands or kids), the settings have not changed at
all in ten years.