What is it like to be sixteen years old now?
In a major touring exhibition for 2019-2020, leading contemporary photographers joined forces to present the multimedia project Sixteen, exploring the dreams, hopes and fears of sixteen-year olds across the UK, led by photographer Craig Easton, who conceived this ambitious project following his engagement with sixteen-year olds at the time of the Scottish Referendum.
My own contribution to Sixteen was concentrated in the seaside town of Hastings, in East Sussex, where I made contact with sixteen-year olds from the town and nearby. In response to the collective desire to engage with young people in a collaborative way, I elected to absent myself from the resulting pieces as much as possible, and to use a method of communication used by, and associated with, young people; FaceTime video. With this in mind, I recorded frank and open conversations with seven young people about life, the future, careers, politics, pets, family, social media, the internet, gaming, university… and attempted to distil their observations into the short film pieces shown here. I found myself reassured by each of these sixteen-year olds - thanks to their inspiring and thoughtful approach to life - that their generation will do a better job than mine in their custodianship of our country.
More about the project:
Photographers: Robert C Brady, Linda Brownlee, Lottie Davies, Craig Easton, Jillian Edelstein, Stuart Freedman, Sophie Gerrard, Kalpesh Lathigra, Roy Mehta, Christopher Nunn, Kate Peters, Simon Roberts, Michelle Sank, Abbie Trayler-Smith, plus the first of four specially selected students, David Copeland, MFA candidate at Ulster University.
Sixteen is an age of transition, of developmental, and of social change. At this time of increasing national and international anxiety, these young people are shifting from adolescence to become the adults who will live in a politically reshaped country, divorced from the European Union. Working with photography, film, social media, audio recordings and writing, the project brings together the faces and voices of more than a hundred young people from diverse communities across the United Kingdom. Locations span large conurbations such as London, Birmingham and Manchester, the South West, Northern Ireland, the Scottish Islands, and post-industrial areas of the North.
The photographers open up conversations with these young people about their hopes and fears, and who or what sustains them, giving prominence to voices rarely heard. The project explores how social background, personal histories, gender, beliefs, ethnicity, and location all might influence aspiration.
This integration of stunning portraits and young peoples’ candid reflections will tour to institutions organisations, arts festivals, and venues beyond the boundaries of the museum. Each venue will co-curate a selection of the work inspired by their own location, relevant topics and themes. Dedicated engagement programmes will encourage further conversations with young people across the country.
The project is produced and managed by Anne Braybon (Creative Director), Craig Easton (Lead Artist) and Liz Wewiora (Creative Producer).