I started doing photography when I was about 13 years old. Back then, it was normal to put film in the camera. Not because it was fancy or hipster-like, but because it was just how you took pictures. I had them developed in Merlin. 50 DKK for 36 pictures. In print.
There was no deeper meaning behind my photography – other than taking pictures of my friends and documenting our journey through our teenage years. I almost always had a camera on me, regardless of whether we were at a party, or if we were just hanging out on a boring Wednesday. The pictures were not meant to be used for anything. They were memories and moments, and not made for newspapers or commercials. It was long before the birth of Facebook, Instagram and other social media. The pictures were “just” memories.
I remember the teenage years as messy, confusing, festive and unbelievably ugly. Therefore, I was equally excited and nervous when I recently brought an old, dusty box down from the attic. A box that I have kept throughout 25 years, and which practically has not been opened since I left my teenage years behind.
The box confirmed my memories. The pictures from back then bear witness to a youth where the immediate and imperfection ruled. There was no Photoshop and filters to make us skinnier, stronger looking, more tan. I could not find one single selfie. There were no ratings of the pictures showing how many “liked” it or “loved” it, and there were no condescending or provoking comments about the people’s appearance. It was liberating. Pictures with no judgement.
I am not sure whether the box is actually physical proof of a time that will never return. Is it possible to be a teenager today and be confused, chaotic and at times awkward and uncool, without having to be confronted with it publicly? Are we no longer taking pictures just to remember and reminisce, but only for the immediate reaction and just to chase the next “Kodak moment” that we hope will get more likes than the one before?
The term “Teenager” was coined in USA in the 1950s, and originally characterised a specific, young target group that had purchasing power, who the media and advisement were very interested in. Throughout the years, the definition of the term teenager has changed, and now it characterises a certain period in life where you transition from childhood into adulthood. A period of time where the body and mind mature, and where boundaries are pushed and life itself is tested.