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11 March 2020

A State of Imperfectness, Grief, and Renewal

11 March 2020 - Written by Lucia De Stefani

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

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure

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.

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure

“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.

© Christine Mooijer, from the series Under Pressure

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, from the series Under Pressure

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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.

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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.

Written by

Lucia De Stefani

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