A State of Imperfectness, Grief, and Renewal

Through stirring cinematic images, Dutch photographer Christine Mooijer stages the context for a still muted discourse around youth disappointment and mental illness.

Through stirring cinematic images, Dutch photographer Christine Mooijer stages the context for a still muted discourse around youth disappointment and mental illness.

Like many of her peers during the modern roaring 2000s, Christine Mooijer grew up with plenty of after-school afternoons filled with Hollywood blockbusters—a televised cascade of references that partially forged her adolescents’ imagination with that everlasting sparkle of a “made in USA” lifestyle.

The “American dream” of the 1920s, fruit of an economic trajectory that endured post-war and continued into the golden 1980s and 1990s, ultimately crashed up against our contemporary fragility and today’s economics, employment, private, and public welfare uncertainties.

In this anxiety-inducing context, Mooijer’s Under Pressure addresses the false promises of a prosperity that millennials gleefully swallowed growing up, and the following high standards to which they, as adults, are now being held, cutting deep into their sense of purpose, place, and self-worth.

In this area, Under Pressure couldn't be more eloquent. If the tones, settings, frames and postures that Mooijer captures are purposely ominous, we seek answers within her frames—how can now her characters redeem themselves? There might be solace in waking from a dream of broken promises, but only if the disillusioned youth are unhindered from working.

“There are a lot of people with a lot of pressure to succeed,” the Dutch photographer says. “We have this thing that we can be everything we want to be, but if you won't do the best you can, you don't get the perfect image you see on TV, then it's your fault, because you got every chance in the world to achieve your dream.”

Persuaded by stories of rewarded efforts, Mooijer set off for sunny California, only to find that Los Angeles was also roiling with turbulence. “The Netherlands are so down-to-earth,” Mooijer says, “I always saw this picture of L.A. like very sunny and very dreamy—if you get to L.A. you made it... So I went, and then I figured out: ‘Okay, so L.A. has rain too.’” The photos in Under Pressure explore this disillusionment as a coming of age. “It wasn't as perfect as they showed me, and I kind of wanted to show this imperfectness.”

Mooijer’s images contain metaphors, each with a story behind it: The big white fence, the American ideal from the '50s that “none of us will be able to get,” she comments. Or a rundown movie theater as a pretty girl passes by, contrasting beauties that do little against smoke and mirrors.

In tackling the difficult subjects of disillusionment, depression and anxiety among millennials and Gen Z, photographers and artists often adopt the vantage point of proximity, as intimate witnesses and heralds of the times and trends, their inside look offering, without judgement, a truth that’s painful to reveal.

The discomfort of the young girl passing the ruined theater exudes frustration and self-reproach. But there’s also a point where the metaphor is surpassed by the literal. And this is where Mooijer’s work is most vital: sharing images and emotions, in a first attempt to accept them.

“We tend to show only our best moments, [but] I wanted to show people that the perfect images that you see on TV or on Instagram—it's not the reality, I want to show a more real image,” Mooijer says. “Now it's time to learn and be less perfect and be okay with that.”

“I still feel like I am not perfect,” Mooijer concludes, “but I think it's kind of healing in a way to see that I am not the only one.”

--------------

Christine Mooijer is a photographer based in Volendam, The Netherlands. She uses photography to write and describe stories, not happy-ending stories, but rather worlds with real feelings where everybody can be theirselves. Follow her on PHmuseum and Instagram.

Lucia De Stefani is a multimedia reporter focusing on photography, illustration, culture, and everything teens. She lives between New York and Italy. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

--------------

This article is part of the series New Generation, a monthly column written by Lucia De Stefani, focusing on the most interesting emerging talents in our community.

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure
i

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure
i

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure
i

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure
i

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure

Latest News Items

  • Maria Montes Duran’s Journey Through Latino Heritage in America

  • Photobook Review: Rambles, Dreams, and Shadows by Arthur Tress

  • A Guide to March 2024 Photo Awards & Opportunities

  • 8 Black Female Photographers to Watch in 2024

  • A Guide To March 2024 Photography Festivals & Exhibitions

  • Of Affection Within Critique: Interview With Nadine Wietlisbach

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Stay in the loop


We will send you weekly news on contemporary photography. You can change your mind at any time. We will treat your data with respect. For more information please visit our privacy policy. By ticking here, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with them. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.