A portrait and story of a 16-year-old girl, part of the A Portrait Of... exhibition

Sixteen – what is it like to be 16 now?

What is it like to be 16 now? In a major touring exhibition leading contemporary photographers join forces to present the multimedia project Sixteen, exploring the dreams, hopes and fears of 16 year olds across the UK.

Photographer Craig Easton conceived this ambitious project following his engagement with sixteen year olds at the time of the Scottish Referendum.

It was the first, and as yet only, time these young people were given the vote in the UK.

Building on the success of that work he invited 16 of the UK’s foremost documentary portrait photographers to collaborate with more than 170 young people across the country to make a visual vox pop on what it means to be sixteen now.

Craig Easton invited leading contemporary photographers to join him and collaborate with more than 170 young people from communities across the UK.

Working with photography, video, writing, audio recordings, and social media, these photographers bring together the voice of those rarely heard.

In conversation with young people

Sixteen is an age of transition, of developmental, and of social change.

At this time of increasing national and international anxiety, these young people are shifting from adolescence to become the adults who will live in a politically reshaped country, divorced from the European Union.

The project brings together the faces and voices of young people from diverse communities across the United Kingdom.

Locations span large conurbations such as London, Birmingham and Manchester, the South West, Northern Ireland, the Scottish Islands, and post-industrial areas of the North.

The photographers open up conversations with these young people about their hopes and fears, and who or what sustains them.

The project explores how social background, personal histories, gender, beliefs, ethnicity, and location all might influence aspiration.

This integration of stunning portraits and young peoples’ candid reflections is touring to institutions organisations, arts festivals, and venues beyond the boundaries of the museum.

Each venue is co-curating a selection of the work inspired by their own location, relevant topics and themes.

Dedicated engagement programmes will encourage further conversations with young people across the country.

A portrait of a 16-year-old boy by Jillian Edelstein, part of the Sixteen touring project
Sam, Hull by Jillian Edelstein, 2018, part of the Sixteen series.
Picture courtesy of Open Eye Gallery 

A Portrait Of…

Open Eye Gallery selected work by four female photographers from the larger Sixteen portfolio for A Portrait Of…

Linda Brownlee captures penetrating and intimate portraits of young poets and spoken word artists across the UK.

Lottie Davies collaborates with young people in the South East coastal town of Hastings. Together they create a vibrant series of FaceTime interviews, a familiar form of communication for 16 year olds.

Jillian Edelstein set up a pop-up studio in the gallery space of a Hull school.

She invites students to have their portraits made and write down their hopes, fears – and favourite songs.

“These songs tell the stories,” she says.

Kate Peters’ love of the outdoors is palpable in all her work. For Sixteen she photographs young people who share her passion for active leisure pursuits.

Challenging assumptions

A Portrait Of… is part of Open Eye Gallery’s year of addressing the historical male dominance in the field of photography.

It explores how portraits change the way we understand one another.

Whether it is Instagram selfies, snapshots of our friends or professional photos, the images we make of ourselves and each other speak volumes about who we are and who we want to be.

Through portraits, we come face to face with someone else.

They create a space in which we can challenge the assumptions we often hold about people.

Alongside the selection from Sixteen, A Portrait Of… also includes a collaboration with Vida Creative Learning and The Olympians.

Vida Creative Learning is a local group of young women who come together to work on photography projects as a way to build resilience and increase self-esteem.

They made a selection of work from the gallery’s archive, guided by their interest in what people wear, how they choose to appear in photos and how this expresses their identity.

Their selections include work from recent years and older projects, including Teresa Eng, Yan Wang Preston, Michelle Sank, Dave Turner and John McDonald.

Before 2012, the last time the Olympic games took place in the UK was 1948.

Katherine Green met with surviving athletes, and took portraits of them as they looked at photos of themselves competing 64 years before the 2012 games.

The Olympians seeks to allow everyone to consider the rich lives older people have lived, encouraging reflection on the stories and experiences that exist in all generations.


A Portrait Of… runs at Open Eye Gallery until September 29.

Sixteen, produced by Liz Wewiora, is touring the North West of England.

Venues include TATE Exchange, TATE Liverpool, Liverpool ONE, Ropes and Twines, and The Strand Bootle and on Southport’s High Street in partnership with the Atkinson, Southport.

Full touring details and venues can be found at sixteentouring.co.uk.

Spectrum Photographic printed and mounted the project.

Main image: Lily, Hull by Jillian Edelstein, 2018, part of the Sixteen series. Courtesy of Open Eye Gallery

Recent blogs

Spectrum Photographic backs Big Blue Ocean Cleanup

Must-see international photography in August 2019

Location/Dislocation. Between Remembering and Forgetting

Mandy Barker: Our Plastic Ocean