You don’t have to suffer to be a poet; adolescence is enough suffering for anyone. ~John Ciardi
One day I set a portrait and piece of blank paper in front of Austin, and he said to me, “I don’t really write.” I suggested he just tell me his story, the story of his life. When I returned fifteen minutes later, he’d written 5 pages, and was scribbling furiously on his sixth. His writing went in to great detail on his life, describing every time he’d been rejected, abused, and displaced. In the end, selecting from what he’d written, we decided he should simply write on his photograph, “I keep losing my friends.”
Shyla also didn’t know what to write. Each time I returned to see what she’d written, the white page was blank. Finally, I asked her, “What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you?” “My dad died last year,” she mumbled. I told her to write about this. Twenty minutes later, her page was filled with the story of her father’s imprisonment, his missing letters to her, their disappointment in each other, and the finality of his death. It was pure poetry.
Given enough time, and a compassionate ear, these adolescents will tell you their life story, including deep pain, rejection, divorce, abuse, family trauma, personal slights, insecurities, death. Alongside the pain, there is also surprising clarity, insight, pathos, and humor.
Adolescents are often written off as interested only in themselves and their strange little teenage worlds. I think they have much to say to us, and that we should listen.
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Some photographs in this series are original, unique prints, with handwriting on the print, and limited to an edition of 1 each. $700 each. Others are available as an edition, at $500 each. Prints are 12×18, matted and mounted. Contact me for purchase.