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The Teen Years exhibition, 2016
Berkeley, CA, 1973Photography Nacio Jan Brown

These black and white photos document teenage growing pains

This exhibition provides a vignette into the universality of youth, from the 60s to modern day

What springs to mind when you think of adolescence? Maybe it’s those long summers, the freedom, vitality and the rites of passage. Or is it the inevitably bizzare experience of growing into your adult body and that inescapable feeling that the world was out to get you? For most of us it’s probably a bit of both.

The Teen Years, now on show at San Diego’s Joseph Bellows Gallery, takes on the Sisyphean task of capturing and condensing the highs, the lows and the in-betweens of adolescence into one collective portrait of the most formative period of most people’s lives. The group exhibition curated by Mike Mulno takes the form of a series of vintage and contemporary photographs ranging from the 1960s to the 21st century. Centred around Mulno’s belief that “pictures of teens can be wonderfully complicated; full of innocence, fury, elation, beauty, and trepidation” the exhibition traces the development of the idea of the teenager from its relative infancy to the modern day.

By documenting the changing face of youth culture over the past fifty years The Teen Years doesn’t shy away historical context but offers more than merely a retrospective vision of adolescence. While acknowledging what it meant to grow up in disparate times and places, something reflected in the breadth of work used from that of Sage Sohier to Joan Albert, the exhibition underscores the communal elements of the teenage experience.

The Teen Years runs until August 26, 2016 at Joseph Bellows Gallery, California