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Joseph Szabo and Siân Davey, “Untethered”
“Wild Horses, 1979”© Joseph Szabo. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Photos of teens taken 50 years apart show nothing changes

A new exhibition draws parallels between photographer Joseph Szabo and Siân Davey’s documentations of youth – taken 50 years apart

Joseph Szabo first began his Teenage series in the early 70s as an art teacher at Malverne High School, Long Island, photographing his pupils by means of engaging with them. For the next 25 years, Szabo’s students remained his ongoing subjects as he documented their movements towards the precipice of adulthood.

Contrastingly, Siân Davey’s Martha sees her capturing the adolescent journey in the present day. In a collaboration with her teenage stepdaughter – from whom the series takes its name – Davey’s work explores their evolving relationship, as well as the lives of Martha and her friends as they navigate their teenage years in rural Devon.

In Untethered, a new exhibition opening at the Michael Hoppen Gallery this week, the two photographers’ works are placed alongside each other, finding a thoughtful symmetry in their respective representations of youth. Despite the gap between the two series spanning almost 50 years, Untethered illustrates the universal values of adolescence; there’s a an ambivalent, vulnerable beauty that resonates unanimously throughout the deeply intimate photos, regardless of era, place or period.

“There is a very short and specific ‘window’ when a person can behave in a way, which is free of the weight of societal expectations and norms” – Siân Davey

In the show’s press release, Davey explained: “Firstly, as a mother I’m interested in the relational aspects of adolescence. I’m also fascinated with this developmental stage when a child starts to individuate and separate from their parents.

“There is this particular point in time when you have a child and adult in the same body, which is why it’s such a complex and potentially confusing time. During this period of transition, there is a very short and specific ‘window’ when a person can behave in a way, which is free of the weight of societal expectations and norms. Before too long the window closes and we can forget how it felt to be ‘untethered’.”

Untethered runs at Michael Hoppen Gallery 6 April – 20 May 2017