Sixteen is an age of transition, of developmental, and of social change. An age where college, sixth-form and working life all quickly become very real. A confusing time where you’re no longer considered a child, but also not yet an adult in the eyes of the government. A time when you feel almost forgotten within society.
In 2017 the UK went through what could set out to be one of the most important decisions in the countries history, with anyone under the age of eighteen not getting a say in what happened in Britain leaving the European Union. 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..
So how does it feel to be a 16 year old now?
In September 2014 the Scottish referendum took place. This was a decision made by the people on whether Scotland became an independent country or remained as part of the UK. It was the first, and as yet, the only time that sixteen year olds could vote on the future of their country. Around this time, Liverpool based photographer, Craig Easton, worked on a project that would included only people that would be turning sixteen on the day of the vote. Through a series of portraits, the project successfully documented what would technically be the youngest ever people to vote in Britain.
Following on from this project, Easton’s latest project, which has been funded by the National Lottery grant from Arts Council England and is due to touring nationally this month, will see fifteen photographers working with young people around the UK to produce a body of work which will aim to open up conversations with them about their hopes and fears, and who or what sustains them, giving prominence to voices rarely heard. The project will explore how social background, personal histories, gender, beliefs, ethnicity, and location all might influence aspiration.
Using photography, film, social media, audio recordings and writing, the project will see more than a hundred young people from diverse backgrounds, come together from places such as London, Birmingham and Manchester, the South West, Northern Ireland, the Scottish Islands, and post-industrial areas of the North to create a series of stunning portraits and young peoples’ candid reflections on what it’s like to be 16. “The project aims to give a voice to young people to tell us about their hopes and fears at a time of great national and international turmoil. It reflects the fact that in 2014 sixteen year olds were allowed to vote in the Scottish independence referendum but were not given a vote on Brexit. Whilst the project isn’t about Brexit – it has much wider concerns than that – it has taken place during the whole Brexit process and so amounts to a visual vox-pop of what it means to be sixteen in the U.K. today” says Easton.
The project includes over 170 photographs and films. In each case the image or video is presented with a personal testimony about the sixteen year olds dreams ambitions hopes and fears for the future. “Each photographer defined their own approach to the project shooting their own mini series within the wider brief. In some cases people chose to define their brief by geography such as myself in the Scottish Islands or Jillian Edelstein in Hull and Lottie Davies in Hastings but others looked at other defining aspects of being sixteen: Simon Roberts worked with different faith communities, Roy Mehta worked with young people from international backgrounds in London and Linda Brownlee worked with spoken word artists and poets.” adds Easton. The exhibition will be on tour from February. You can find out if it’s coming to a town near you below.
You will be able to see the exhibition here:
New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery & Atrium | 15 February – 14 April 2019, University of Salford, University Rd, Salford M5 4BR
HOME | 16 February – 17 March 2019, 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester M15 4FN
Manchester Central Library | 17 February – 15 April 2019, St Peter’s Square, Manchester M2 5PD
42nd Street & Horsfall Space | 16 February – 8 March 2019, 87-91 Great Ancoats St, Manchester M4 5AG
Public Preview: Friday 15 February 2019. 4:30pm New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery & Atrium, University of Salford, and 7.30pm at HOME, Manchester
Touring to: FORMAT international photography festival, Derby | 14 March – 14 April 2019
Widnes Vikings Rugby Club | Opening May 2019, Lower House Lane, Widnes WA8 7DZ