‘My Last day Seventeen’
Encontros Da Imagem, Braga
14.09.2012 - 28.10.2012
Russell Heights is a housing estate of uncertain vintage that sits on Spy Hill overlooking Cork Harbor on the Great Island in East Cork, Ireland. The neighborhood is insular: everyone seems to be someone’s cousin, former girlfriend or spouse. Little can happen there that isn’t seen, discussed, distorted beyond all reason and fiercely defended against any disapprobation from the outside.
My introduction to Russell Heights came at the invitation of Kevin and Eirn, two teenagers who took part in a photography workshop I gave at the local community centre. The title of the project, My Last Day at Seventeen was uttered by Eirn when I photographed her on the eve of her eighteenth birthday. Certain photographs are made spontaneously, but most are fashioned collaboratively utilizing a chosen wardrobe, setting and circumstance. These scenes are carefully crafted and stylized to evoke the narrative rhetoric of literature and film without abrogating entirely the photographic claim to depict lived experience. The portraits, similarly directed, are often tightly framed to concentrate on the anxious countenance and fragile bravado of a future life not fully imagined or realized.
The photographs were made over a four year period during a series of artist residencies at the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh. Collectively, My Last Day at Seventeen presents a somewhat fictional, somewhat documentary account of adolescence in Ireland and a coming of age story about a small group of teenagers from Russell Heights.
© Doug Dubois