2016 - Ongoing
Twelve is a portrait series documenting twelve-year-old girls coming of age in NYC. The process is collaborative and input from my subjects is instrumental. I started this project during the summer of 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign that featured the first female candidate in modern times. Donald Trump’s surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton has resulted in a turbulent presidency and a destabilization of our democracy. All Americans are impacted. The uncertainty we all feel about the future is the environment in which these girls are trying to understand who they are and their place in society. The girls speak about enduring middle school stresses, friendships, and social challenges but comments on the current events inevitably come up as these matters can‘t help but impact their lives. These girls are surrounded by news stories about the refugee crisis, walkouts on school gun violence, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate, families being separated at the border, and #metoo. This series documents twelve-year-old coming of age at this very unique time in our history.
I am a mother to two children, one twelve and the other fourteen, and it is alarming to me how at this age much of a child’s worth is measured in achievements. By twelve adults have stopped giving out those meaningless participation trophies. It is the age when taking part in almost every activity is quantified with a ranking or a win/loss: all sports, debate, robotics, poker, chess, writing, ballet, playing a musical instrument. There is a contest, tournament or award for everything and children dutifully compete to burnish their applications for ongoing high schools or colleges. Nike puzzles over why girls drop out from sports in dramatic numbers at twelve but every parent knows the answer: Starting in middle school there is little opportunity for kids to participate in most activities, let alone sports, just for the fun of it. Chloe Kim is a phenomenal role model and teen athlete but she is a prodigy, an outlier. It’s intimidating for girls to learn that in order to be seen, heard, or beloved it helps to be a once in a lifetime winner. If you listen to my girls' stories it’s evident they face tremendous personal challenges every day. I wanted to profile these “ordinary” girls and show them that they are deserving of attention and that their lives and opinions matter, now. They don’t need to win anything; they don’t need to prove they are the best in order to participate in my project. The only requirement is a willingness to open up and share. My aim is to create beautiful, documentary portraits of these twelve-year-old girls, to show them that they are worthy as they are.
My decision to shoot this project on a large format, 4x5, film camera was deliberate. Twelve-year-olds today are highly adept at taking quick snaps and selfies on their phones and they are equally skilled at being in front of the camera. The slow and considered process of the 4x5 serves as a contrast to the throwaway images today’s tweens are familiar with and highlights the intentional image making process. I bring only 20 sheets of film to each shoot, limiting the opportunities we have to make images, making each frame precious.