Youth Rising in the UK 1981-2021
Youth Rising in the UK 1981-2021 charts the experience of young people over a 40-year period.
by Sheena Campbell
Youth Rising in the UK 1981-2021 brings together the work of nine photographers over a period of 40 years.
Rarely seen works by Chris Killip and Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen are on show alongside recent work by Alys Tomlinson, Maryam Wahid, Sadie Catt, Tom Sussex, Christopher Nunn, Paul Alexander Knox and Vanessa Winship.
Curator Liz Hingley said: “The photographers in the exhibition tenderly document the awkward, surprising and passionate journey into adulthood, that resonates across generations but is at once unique to each.
“The projects featured intimately explore themes of grief, illness, play, rural and urban life, migration, love, education, homelessness, ritual and race.
“They are works which withhold judgment and give meaning to this moment and beyond.”
Konttinen and Killip
The starting point for the exhibition is a series of photographs from the AmberSide Collection taken in the 1980s.
Finnish photographer Konttinen’s Writing in the Sand series captures life on the beaches of the North East.
Focusing in particular on Whitley Bay, the images document the exuberance and introspection of youth on the vast expanse of sand.
Killip’s early work Skinningrove, depicts with characteristically rough and raw beauty the lives of the community and young fishermen in a North Yorkshire coastal village in the early 1980s.
Steidl will publish a book of the series later this year.
Winship, Tomlinson and Sussex
Recent work by Winship and Tomlinson captures two key stages of graduation – from child to teen and teen to adult.
Winship’s photographs, taken in Cumbria this year, depict Year 5 children progressing to their final year at primary school.
Winship invited the children to write their visions for the future and these texts sit alongside the portraits.
The photographs are part of a larger commission by Signal Film and Media to document different locations across Cumbria.
Tomlinson photographed school leavers in their prom outfits in June 2020.
They represent The Lost Summer for those unable to sit exams or formally mark the significant step of leaving school.
Sussex photographed the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 in London.
These scenes are accompanied by portraits of the young people campaigning for change.
Catt, Wahid, Nunn and Knox
Longer-term projects on show include Of Quiet Birds by Catt.
On display for the first time, the project spans a period of 20 years.
It captures the maturing of a child’s grief at the death of her mother and sister.
Catt observed and photographed the rise to fame of her close friend, Alice, as the lead singer of the PussyLiquor punk rock group, the reshaping of Alice’s family relationships and the love that grows from grief.
Wahid’s personal and performative project Young Married and Migrated, my mother and me offers insight into British-Pakistani identity across generations and geography.
Archival imagery of her 18-year-old mother arriving in Birmingham in the 1980s portrays a very different world to that of the young men from Skinningrove in the same period.
Wahid has created a series of self portraits in her mother’s clothes.
The photographs were taken around the city of Birmingham where her parents settled and still live today.
Youth Rising in the UK also includes unseen work by Nunn produced as part of Sixteen, a collaborative project documenting the lives of contemporary 16 year olds.
Knox’s portrait of a young companion from the Emmaus community in South Shields is also featured.
Student experiences of COVID-19
Images displayed in the ground floor gallery were created between 2019 and 2021 by photographers from the University of Sunderland and the University of the West of England, Bristol.
The photographs portray the complexities of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students used their cameras to share their experiences and emotions.
“In drawing together a spectrum of stories from across the UK this extensive exhibition seeks to question, imagine and value what it means to be a young person in today’s shifting world,” said Hingley.
“I hope to provide a critical platform for those who are shaping their futures as the world around them unfolds.”
Youth Rising in the UK 1981-2021
Youth Rising in the UK 1981-2021 is on at Side Gallery, Newcastle, until October 3.
Side Gallery is currently open Wednesday to Sunday 11am-5pm.
Entry is free but to ensure social distancing visitors will need to book a ticket.
Spectrum Photographic worked with Liz Hingley on part of the production.