“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? There were young questions and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”
– Patti Smith in her book Just Kids, 2010
Our teenage years can be the most challenging. A time in our lives where we begin to explore and forge our identity, form social groups and try to figure out our place in the big outside world. These years are unique to the individual, some go down different paths to others, but what we can all relate to is that special and universal idea of what it means to be young, this jarring time between not being a child, yet not being an adult. These ideas and emotions have been wonderfully articulated in Hannah Modigh’s body of work, The Milky Way. Where she has photographed and documented young people between the ages of 12-16, as they begin their journey into adulthood. What you will find within the pages of The Milky way is a study into the exploration of each individuals journey into self-discovery, be it their sexual identity or place in society.
What is made apparent from Modigh’s photographs is how natural the images feel, tender moments of individuals exploring their feelings with others, feeling more like film slides being projected into our laps. With each turning of the page, those nostalgic sounds of the slide projector clanging onto the next slide can be felt and heard. The vibrations of our past help add to The Milky Way, we see ourselves in these images, old friends from those hot and sweaty summer months make themselves known.
The dreams and aspirations of each young person is somewhat absent from The Milky Way, with only one image alluding to the preferred career and future, a girl posing on her bed, doing the splits in gymnastic attire. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, The Milky Way is more focused on those magical moments, being young and living in the now, the feeling that the summer holidays will last forever.
There is a large canvas here, with different colours, shapes and textures moving into blank spaces, offering the viewer a glimpse into the mindset and lives of these young people. We are shown a group of boys play fighting, testing one another’s strengths like young lion cubs, madly in love couples wrapped in each other’s arms. But not all of Modigh’s photographs are about being social and together. Outsiders who feel like they don’t fit in with everybody else are present. The Benders from The Breakfast Club we all knew, or perhaps some of us where that person. A young man, embodying the look of a young River Phoenix from Stand By Me, stands with his eyes shut in a field, by himself and seemingly lost in his thoughts. The subject is alone, like several other young boys and girls within The Milky Way, a nudge to the audience that not all of us have had the same experiences growing up. Being a teenager can be an extremely lonely place, and it’s portrayed elegantly and poignantly within The Milky Way.
There is a timeless quality to The Milky Way, perhaps because this work will always be relevant. We see our pasts in the lives of others and can identify with and relate to the young people that fill each image with their presence.
The Milky Way by Hannah Modigh can be purchased here
Harry Rose graduated in 2014 from University of South Wales, where he studied Photographic Art. With a focus on writing about photography and working on his own photographic explorations, Harry is the editor of Darwin Magazine. Which he co founded in 2012 and regularly writes for.