Leading photographers explore life at sixteen

by Alastair Hamilton -

Shetland hosts many exhibitions in our public and private galleries, some featuring our diverse and numerous local artists and others offering paintings or sculpture from farther afield. A recent highlight was the Holbein portrait loaned by London’s National Gallery and we can look forward to seeing work by Grayson Perry later in the year.

During June, a very different venue in Lerwick is hosting a major touring exhibition. At a building site, where the Hjaltland Housing Association is constructing flats, the work of leading contemporary photographers is displayed on the hoardings. The photographers joined forces with more than 170 sixteen-year-olds across the UK to explore their dreams, hopes and fears and who and what they care about. On this page, I’ve included several of Craig’s portraits of young people in Shetland and Fair Isle. Each of the portraits is accompanied by a statement from the young person concerned.

Thanks to additional Arts Council England funding, the exhibition, entitled Sixteen, has undertaken an extended spring touring programme. New partnerships in Hull, the Wirral and Widnes, as well as Shetland, follow acclaimed exhibitions earlier this year across Greater Manchester, and at the Format International Photography Festival in Derby.

Photographer Craig Easton conceived this ambitious project in collaboration with sixteen-year-olds at the time of the Scottish independence referendum. It was the first, and as yet only occasion in in the United Kingdom, on which sixteen-year-olds have been given the vote.

Building on the success of this work, he invited some of the UK’s foremost documentary portrait photographers to collaborate with him and young people to create visual “vox pops” on what it means to be sixteen now.

As well as Craig Easton, the photographers included Robert C Brady, Linda Brownlee, Lottie Davies, Jillian Edelstein, Stuart Freedman, Sophie Gerrard, Kalpesh Lathigra, Roy Mehta, Christopher Nunn, Kate Peters, Simon Roberts, Michelle Sank, and Abbie Trayler-Smith.

Working with photography, film, social media, audio recordings and writing, they brought together the faces and testimonies of young people from diverse communities across the UK, giving prominence to voices rarely heard.

The show began its tour in Hull, in May, and it includes both photographic and audio-visual elements. Each sixteen-year-old included the title of a favourite song in their testimony as another way of telling their story. Photographic, FaceTime and video portraits of young people are included, involving young people from Shetland to Cornwall. In Shetland, the audio-visual material is being made available in our arts centre, Mareel.

Shetland Arts supported Craig Easton to work with a host of young people across Shetland, capturing their stories. Shetland Arts say that the project echoes their core belief that art has the power to lift us up, to help us find expression and self-belief and support communities to have their voices heard.

art has the power to lift us up

Posted in: Creative Scene

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