Transformations

The challenges of transitioning from youth to adolescence to adulthood

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Greg Turner is an amateur photographer living in Horsham, a small market town about 50 kilometres south of London. Some years ago he was working a corporate job - “enough to pay the bills” - but wanted explore his creative side. So in the midst of this “midlife crisis” he picked up his camera, taking after his father, who was also an amateur photographer. Turner had a rough transition into adulthood himself, and so he decided to explore the challenges of transitioning from youth to adolescence to adulthood. “These kids are expressing their sense of identity and vulnerability, without being completely sure of the consequences yet”.  

 
 
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Why did you choose to take pictures of young adults?

‘When a friend came out as transgender, I became interested in the notion of transitions. We are always in some form of transition but there are some stages in life that represent more meaningful or challenging transitions than others. I wanted to explore those transitions.

‘My own childhood wasn’t great. As a young child I experienced abuse at school, it was pretty horrific. It was a lost opportunity to really enjoy being a teenager, and going into adulthood. So I decided to explore what that was like for those who are currently undergoing that process.

‘I live in a normal town that is full of people who try to go on with their lives. But there’s this park close to where I live with strong youth culture, with a diverse but still close-knit group. They are bound to each other by friendship, love, and the shared experience of transition.

‘Because I work full time and have a wife and two young children, I have to fit my photography in wherever possible. So I went to the park in spare moments over the course of several months.’
 

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How did you win the trust of these youngsters?

‘I was more nervous about this than anything else in my life. I was afraid of being called out, being accused of being a middle aged imposter. It terrified me. So I started going down there to just spend some time, see what was going on. After some time I approached them and told them openly about my intentions. “Terrified to ask you, but I want to tell your story, would you let me do that?” I bought a polaroid camera and gave them the pictures I took with it, as a gift. Eventually they introduced me to others and before I realised I had people getting in touch with me.’

How did you try to capture that notion of transition?

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‘I tried to put myself in their shoes. These kids are expressing their sense of identity and vulnerability, without being completely sure of the consequences yet. I let them pose however they felt comfortable. As a result the portraits include notions of sexuality, masculinity and femininity, vulnerability, conformity, self-expression, and self-confidence.

‘I shot the project in black and white to reflect the latency of their emerging personality, in particular their tendency to shy away from brightly coloured clothes that might otherwise alienate them from the group.

‘I am still in touch with some of them, in a number of ways. With one guy in particular called Hannis, a friendship developed. I concluded the project last summer, and decided to step back, give them some space. But because we live in the same town, I kept running into them and they asked me why I didn’t come around anymore. So I started to re-engage. I am now working on Transitions Part 2. It has a slightly different aesthetic and it will continue for a couple more years.’


YMCA
At the request of Greg Turner a 100,- euro fee was donated to his local YMCA, a worldwide youth organisation with multiple chapters throughout the UK. Turner is currently running a small photography group with some of the residents of the YMCA who are aspiring photographers. The money from the donation is being used to buy a camera for the group members, who are currently dependent on the cameras on their phones.

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Greg TurnerHorsham