Teen City : The adventure of adolescence
Teen City
The adventure of adolescence
Nathalie Herschdorfer, June 16, 2008
Teen City/Julia Fullerton Batten_Changing Room, 2007
Teen City/Julia Fullerton Batten_Changing Room, 2007


Adolescence is probably the phase of life that raises the most questions. A gathering of young people always creates a stir and it’s not uncommon to see anxiety in the faces of any adults present. Accounts of this period of life often do no more than evoke the difficulties adolescents experience or generate. Sociologists agree that they possess a range of capacities, preferences and cultural behavior patterns that are sufficiently stable and coherent to distinguish them from the rest of the population. Advertising and the media have greatly influenced the development of this idea. With the increase in purchasing power in post-War years, a market developed that was specifically devoted to the young and that was avid for new products.

Teen City/Julia Fullerton Batten_Changing Room, 2007
Teen City/Julia Fullerton Batten_Changing Room, 2007


The society we live in idealizes youth. However, it has some difficulty understanding a reality that is constantly generating new images of itself. Artists have also begun to work in this area, with photographs of adolescents becoming so prominent that one can almost speak of an independent genre. Examining this age group is a way of studying a form of otherness. Teenagers are neither children, nor adults, neither fully men, nor women. Often androgynous, rejecting their past, dreaming of the future, adolescents are searching for a sense of self. They are extremely preoccupied with their self image and give great importance to the aesthetic characteristics of their universe, attempting in this way to develop a personal style that enables them to stake out a distinct identity. They borrow and mix a variety of different codes. What is the impact on this process of the various images of youth - their own and those of mass media?

Teen City/NIcolas Savary_JoŽlle, Broc, 2005
Teen City/NIcolas Savary_JoŽlle, Broc, 2005


In the field of photography, the representation of adolescence really took off in the second half of the 20th century with the work of precursors such as the Americans Bruce Davidson and Larry Clark. Their pictures reveal youth in revolt, disturbed and delinquent. During the 1990’s, the Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra, famous for her pictures of vulnerable adolescent bodies, had a deep influence on the genre that encouraged other artists to take an interest in the subject. The Musée de l’Elysée has chosen to show work that differs from these pioneering efforts. The exhibition does not present a generic portrait of adolescence but rather brings together work done by photographers over the last ten years dealing with a variety of issues: schools as autonomous, closed spaces; the difficult balance between individuality and belonging to a group; the interaction between generations; the conflict between the search for authenticity and norms of behaviour; the end of a carefree existence and the transition towards the harsh reality of adult life; the dreams, fantasies and values that are often far removed from the conventions of society; the construction of a new body; the experience of sexuality.

Hanne van der Woude_Katinka and Annabel, Oosterbeek - Holland, 2007
Hanne van der Woude_Katinka and Annabel, Oosterbeek - Holland, 2007


While this work reflects the way adults perceive adolescence, we also wanted to show pictures taken by teenagers themselves- pupils from schools in the canton of Vaud (Lausanne, Yverdon, Genolier and Morges). Nowadays, digital imagery has become an easy way of communicating and of presenting oneself through the use of portable phones and blogs. The Musée de l’Elysée has therefore invited around a hundred young people to become photographers for the duration of this exhibition.

Dana Popa_Elena, 23 years old, 2006
Dana Popa_Elena, 23 years old, 2006


Marion Poussier_Sans-titre, 2003-2005
Marion Poussier_Sans-titre, 2003-2005


Artists statements

Julia Fullerton-Batten - Great Britain

« Adolescence is a complicated and delicate period, particularly for young girls who begin to see themselves in the context of society and start questioning their identity. It’s an age of important physical and psychological changes, but also of anxiety and hope, as well as the birth of freedom. In my pictures, I try to grasp these changes.”


Dana Popa - Romania

«Since 1989, sex trafficking has become one of the most lucrative criminal activities in East and West Europe. The Moldavian Republic is the principle supplier of sex slaves for the whole continent. We are familiar with pictures of these sex slaves in brothels or on the streets. I have chosen to tell a different story by taking pictures of young women who were victims of this new slave trade but who have managed to return home. I wanted to see how they survive the trauma of their experience in a world that ignores their suffering. Natascha is what prostitutes from the East are called. They hate this nickname.”

Nicolas Savary_Michel, Bulle, 2005
Nicolas Savary_Michel, Bulle, 2005


Marion Poussier - France

«This work is based on my memories of summer holiday camps. These camps were a sort of interlude in my everyday life. No one knew me so I could play any role I wanted. The notions of time (which was suspended) and space (which was closed) took on a different dimension. The question of how one appears to others, of representation, which is so important during adolescence is at the heart of this project. Although these pictures show the theatrical aspects of adolescent attitudes, they also reveal the teenagers’ fragile, vulnerable personalities.”


Lillian Birnbaum_The eye - diane, 2005_Birnbaum
Lillian Birnbaum_The eye - diane, 2005_Birnbaum


Ewen Spencer - Great Britain

«I don’t subscribe to the idea that adolescence means drugs and crime. At the end of the day, teenagers are what they have always been - a bundle of hormones and intense agitation. It’s a very exciting, turbulent time. I think it’s been like that ever since the word “teenager” was coined in the 50’s. Being able to escape is everything for a young person- a school yard in which he can empty his pockets.”


Nicolas Savary_Yoann, Bulle, 2005
Nicolas Savary_Yoann, Bulle, 2005


Lena Maria Thüring - Switzerland

«My work is devoted to groups of young people who share a taste for Hip Hop music. The young men I photograph are constantly aware of their appearance, especially their posture and their body language. The question is how much the media world influences the reality of these young men, their perception of themselves and the development of their identity.”

Raimond Wouda_Damstede_I-_Amsterdam_2003
Raimond Wouda_Damstede_I-_Amsterdam_2003


Nicolas Savary - Switzerland

«In this survey, I was interested in a specific category of people - adolescents, and a particular type of architecture - schools. Young people, kept at a distance from the adult world to which they do not yet belong, have difficulty finding their place. In this sense, school is far from ideal precisely because it’s a place chosen by adults to keep them busy. When visiting schools, it quickly becomes apparent that the space is organized primarily according to functional logic. Movement, places and postures are choreographed by the school authorities.”


Raimond Wouda_Lingecollege II, Tiel, 2006
Raimond Wouda_Lingecollege II, Tiel, 2006


Exhibiting artists

Anoush Abrar Iran / Switzerland 1976, Lena Amuat Switzerland 1977, Lillian Birnbaum USA /Austria 1959, Davina Feinberg USA 1974, Julia Fullerton-Batten Great Britain 1970, Bill Henson Australia 1955, Moira Lovell Great Britain 1977, Bianca Pilet Holland 1968, Annaïk Lou Pitteloud Switzerland 1980, Dana Popa Roumania 1977, Marion Poussier France 1980, Jennifer Santschy Switzerland 1983, Nicolas Savary Switzerland 1971, Dona Schwartz USA 1955, Ewen Spencer Great Britain 1971, Lena Maria Thüring Switzerland 1981, Hanne van der Woude Holland 1982, Marco van Duyvendijk Holland 1974, Raimond Wouda Holland 1964

The “city” of adolescents - Teen City - will never cease to fascinate, disturb and intrigue us.

Through October 26, 2008

www.elysee.ch