Moment of Intertia; Portraits of Adolescent Girls

From 1996 to 2000, I photographed a series of portraits of adolescent girls, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. The series, entitled Moment of Inertia, included their images in black and white portraits, accompanied by their thoughts on body image, teen pregnancy, drugs, self-esteem and other pertinent issues that face adolescent girls. The exhibit displayed both the silver gelatin photographs and the excerpts from the interviews.

As I began this series, a thousand questions came to mind. Why is adolescence so difficult for girls? Is it better or worse now than in previous generations? Why are some girls prone to low self-esteem? I had to know. I began reading books like Reviving Ophelia, eavesdropping on girl’s conversations, watching their body language, studying their clothing and piercings and analyzing disturbing media messages. I gave in and let myself be submerged in their world, a world I did not know I could survive a second time. Moment of Inertia is my attempt to convey the mystery and complexity of adolescent girls, but above all, it is the face and voice of girls who should be seen and heard in a very noisy world.

In 2004, I returned to California and was able to locate and several of the girls from the series, now in their early twenties. They were photographed in a very similar way to their first portrait, with the same medium format camera. My intension is for the viewer to compare and contrast the images. Have they changed physically? Is the body language different? Has life been exciting and surprising or difficult and riddled with hardships? Was this predictable? 

Some portraits appear as if the girl was photographed simultaneously rather than years apart while other girls appear to have experienced much more than five years of life between portraits with the inclusion of their child in the latter image. The portraits and interviews again give faces and voices to the girls, now young women, challenged with finding their way in the world today.