The project “Facing Youth” aims at outlining a possible overview on European youth.
But what do we discuss when we discuss youth? What does this concept mean?
According to experts, and from age standpoint, it concerns the period from 12 to 20. However, in western societies, it can be expanded up to the age of 30, taking into account leaving parents’ house and economic independence, among other factors. It will be then, the transition phase during which a determinant moment of “self” assertion is built, and the first personal opinions emerge, as well as the first doubts, along with the desire for affirmation. It is a period for both physical and mental development, open minded to new learning processes, so it is important to encourage habits of cultural practices, from reading and interpreting, to the development of a critical sense and participation in society.
This period of life is built primarily in the realm of symbolism and ideology and it appeals to the appropriation of symbols, meanings and ideas that are more assertively fostered today, by the growth of social networks, the advertising market and other global communication media.
Young people are incomplete and immature subjects suffering a process of transformation, and so they are keen on absorbing culture.
Youth is also an oniric phase, with its ideals, when the first utopias are generated such as the desire to change the world. A young man emanates the power of nature, a sometimes irreverent wish to struggle, but anyway he is also permissive when it concerns absorbing certain values. This is the time of great challenges, of craving for liberty, of willing to take risks. It was within this synoptic frame which inventories the essential features of a young person, that we have established the narrative that embodies the project “Facing Youth”.
This narrative starts with Mário Castro’s work, which sends us to the universe of astrology where each portrait or gesture is, simultaneously, “A sign of the epic life of each individual”. Following up the young person’s representation, the ambiguity of photographs stands out through the Works of Michi Suzuki and Julia Peirone. They can either be images of uncertainty or hope in the future. The first one intends to illustrate the actual Italian society and still it may spread to other western societies; in the second we meet young girls in the frontier between adolescence and youth, where Peirone explores the psychology of the photo camera, between photographer and photographed.
After three different types of portraits, we move on to traditional everyday life existences where interaction, growth and desire for independence stand out. Thomas Chable, Mafalda Rakos and Patryk Karbowski are this chapter’s authors, in which Mafalda takes part in her pairs’ actions, since she belongs to the same age range, and where she claims/questions: “Living the moment, questioning the future, being foolish, being free, still living with the parents, but already planning to leave. What is going on and what will happen next?” Then is the turn for groups, tribes, multiculturalism, appearances. Anna Psaroudakis provides us with an account of the meeting of cultures in Athens, a city of reference when it comes to the Hellenic civilization roots. On this journey we are directed to the north, where Aki-Pekka reveals the meaning of being young, through the series Finnish Teens. Julien Becker and Soraya Hocine report about specific teenager groups, and as Hocine’s work has been developed along several years with the same group, it is quite consistent. In a similar register, Marion Poussier takes us to her adolescence memories while documenting youth summer camps. In this relaxed and recreational climate we find Marco Rigamonti’s images taken at “Promenade des Anglais”, in Nice.
Though a through a different perspective, Anna Skladmann explores the quick changes which occurred in Russia after the fall of the soviet regime, presenting us a group of young people raised in times of chaos and liberty.
In order to interrupt the narrative rhythm, we return to the possibilities of portrait with the works of Jorge Fuembuena and Katarina Hruskova. They show a more psychological mood, relating the individual with his image, being and looking alike, presence and absence.
In the following series, belonging to Raimond Wouda and Vesselina Nikolaeva we can see young persons in school environment. The first one uses leisure moments between classes to tell about group constitution, clothing and hairstyle. On her turn, Nikolaeva reveals the abolition of Bulgarian society stereotypes in post-Cold War generation.
Then we progress into the interior sphere, the one dealing with the young individual’s personal encounter, where doubts and certitudes are generated. Kamila Kobierzyrinska’s portraits unveil specific types, relaxed outsiders, selected in particular niches, living their lives in a peculiar way. As stated before, juvenile phase is also an irreverent one where infraction and marginality are nearly experienced. There are different ways of expression, from sport cheerleading, recorded by Yiannos Demetriou, to a more poetic vision of behaviours, in the work of Sirviö Sauli, or to the transgression behaviour on the stage of the night rituals, in the works of Ewen Spencer and Maciej Dakowicz. Present society is transforming and unemployment stands as a real ghost, haunting many countries. Donatas Stankevicius and Paul Corcoran’s works present us this true scenario. Donatas captures a discouraged and frustrated look, while Corcoran records a glimpse of uncertainty about the future, stressed by the representation of abandoned workspaces. Finally, Zoe Vicenti exhibits a set of portraits made 20 days after the Fukushima earthquake. The nuclear disaster gives the tone to the question concerning the future. Not being children anymore, they were not adolescents yet. They posed with an expression of doubt, but with a look of hope at the same time.
Children wish to grow fast into youth; when we get older, we have the illusion of retaining youth. Despite our aging process, we shall remain young. We must hold to such a determination.

Rui Prata, agosto de 2012.