I really enjoyed this book of portraits and interviews with American teenagers. The portraits were taken over the course of four years, and each one has a short chunk of the interview Bowman did with her subjects. I love this kind of blend of photo and explanatory text instead a book of just solely photographs, so this was right up my alley. I also am always rooting for teenagers, as I feel that they are unfairly denigrated in our culture, so it was nice to read a book that was openhearted about hearing from them and seemed to be very humanistically focused on seeing them as humans with unique thoughts and goals.
The photographs themselves are nicely shot and composed, in black and white with the look of a tintype portrait, although she used a large format Polaroid camera. They’re very striking and really capture emotion and the moment. She is a great photographer. I liked the range and diversity of teens that she talked to, and I think it really captures the positives and negatives of the American experience. You have such a variety of people living such a variety of lives, and it’s so fascinating to think about how many worlds we brush by in the course of a day. Here, we get to see a huge range of people and their vastly different experiences, from Hasidic and Amish teens to debutantes to homeless youth to single moms to a blind Navajo football player who seems very cool and who I hope is doing well. The whole book made me very happy and full of positive feelings about people and their inner worlds. There is some racism/sexism/homophobia here, as it’s a pretty unvarnished look at teens around 2002-2005. Overall, definitely recommended — a used copy is pretty affordable right now.