Carolyn Mendelsohn: Being Inbetween
Powerful photographic portraits exploring the complex transition between childhood and young adulthood
Made over a period of 6 years, Being Inbetween is a series of powerful photographic portraits of girls aged between ten and twelve, exploring the complex transition between childhood and young adulthood. With many portraits never-before exhibited, this is the most extensive exhibition of the series to date.
Driven by personal experience, award-winning photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn has worked collaboratively with 90 girls who are in the midst of navigating this complex, and potentially defining, period in their lives. Too often the target of relentless marketing campaigns and victims of social media pressures, girls at this age are often placed into an amorphous group described as ‘tweens’. Through her photography and accompanying interviews, Mendelsohn allows each individual an opportunity to reclaim their identity, encouraging a dialogue on ambitions and aspirations, hopes and fears.
The girls are both creative participants and collaborators. Invited by Mendelsohn to select their own clothing and stance for the portrait, each girl’s features and gestures are recorded against the same grey hand-painted backdrop. In these three-quarter length portraits, each girl looks directly into the camera. This careful and measured photographic approach bestows the girls with authority, granting them a certain power held within their gaze.
Featuring girls from a spectrum of cultural and ethnic backgrounds; disabled girls as well as able-bodied; and girls from a range of socio- economic circumstances, Being Inbetween offers an inclusive insight into this generation of girls. A personal narrative accompanies each photograph, with Mendelsohn asking the same set of questions to each of her collaborators: What is your full name? How old are you?, followed by more in-depth and emotionally- charged questions: What do you love? What is your ambition? What do you really dislike? What are your hopes for the future?
The responses are wide ranging, personal and refreshingly direct. Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘INFLUENCER’, 11 year old Ruby proclaims that her ambition is to ‘help others be more self confident about themselves’, while 11 year old Becca affirms that one day she will ride a rollercoaster at an amusement park in her wheelchair.
When asking about their wider fears and concerns, Mendelsohn noted a change in responses, reflecting wider issues in society and anchoring the project to a specific moment in time. Responses recorded in 2014/15 encompassed worries about hunger, homelessness, loss, and war. Throughout 2019, the girls more frequently referenced the world and environment as a source of anxiety. In her final portrait of the series taken in February 2020, Mendelsohn met Lottie, who shared her growing fears over, the then widely-underestimated, Coronavirus.
Taken as a whole, the portraits offer a highly personal insight into the dreams, desires, hopes and fears of this group of unique young women, with each girl the author of her own look and artist of her own image.
Anne McNeill, exhibition curator and Director of Impressions Gallery says, “Being Inbetween is a significant and inclusive portrait of our times. These remarkable photographs are playful, yet serious; and while they are a record of our uncertain times, they are, in another way, timeless. If these ninety young girls are permitted to be who they are and what they want to be, then society and humanity will be their safe in their hands.”
An Impressions Gallery touring exhibition curated by Anne McNeill
Carolyn Mendelsohn is a photographer, and filmmaker who has lived and worked across the UK. Her passion is making personal work, based on the lives of individuals and their stories. Her work has been exhibited internationally, and published by The Guardian, The Sunday Times, La Monde, and BJP amongst others. Carolyn’s awards including BJP Portrait of Britain 2017 and 2019, The Royal Photographic Society International Print exhibitions RPS IPE 159 gold and she was a finalist for RPS IPE 160.
In 2018 she was shortlisted for the International Women Photographers Award and nominated for the RPS 100 Heroines. In 2020, Mendelsohn was named winner of the Portrait Series category for the 15th Julia Margaret Cameron Awards and was a winner of the Single Image Award for Open Wall Arles, by British Journal of Photography and Galerie Huit.
Her first publication Being Inbetween will be published by Bluecoat Press in November 2020
Meet the Artist
11 minutes 10 seconds
Directed and produced by New Focus, Impressions Gallery’s young people’s collective
Being Inbetween by Carolyn Mendelsohn
Special exhibition price £24 (RRP £28)
Being Inbetween is a series of over 90 photographic portraits of girls aged between ten and twelve, exploring the complex transition between childhood and young adulthood. Featuring a forward by Zelda Cheatle and an essay by Anne McNeill.
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