From wonder and imagination, to fear, embarrassment and uncertainty, the Telfair Museums’ exhibition, “Youthful Adventures: Growing up in Photography,” offers visitors an undeniably relatable view into their former selves.
Each of the photographs compiled for “Youthful Adventures” captures an essential element of American youth or childhood, from 1940s street-scapes to the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, to the digital revolution and beyond, leaving visitors of all ages with an enlivened sense of nostalgia.
“I think it’s important to show a wide variety of photographs for this exhibition,” said Erin Dunn, Telfair’s associate curator of modern and contemporary art.
“Childhood is such a universal experience and thus these photos capture all kind of different societal moments across the country in many different time periods, so I think it definitely needed the representation of a large group of photographers.”
The exhibition is made up of a collection of more than forty photographs from over 25 photographers ranging from internationally known names like Helen Levitt, Gordon Parks, and Sheila Pree-Bright, to recent Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Eva Verbeeck.
“We have some funny and humorous images that will make people smile, but we’re also showing the rituals and traditions that we’re kind of forced to go through as children too,” said Dunn.
“That’s how we discover who we are. Self-expression and self-identity are big themes of growing up and coming into one’s own.”
The exhibition also features many photos of children in more serious roles, such as acting on the forefront of change.
“Civil Rights and activism is an important concept in this exhibition too,” added Dunn. “Children always have to look forward towards their future and determine what they want their future to look like. I think it was especially important to include photographers like Gordon Parks in this exhibition as well, because often when we see Civil Rights photography it’s shot in black and white, so we think of it as something that happened in another era when in reality it’s in our very recent past.”
The museum even sought to include the voices of Savannah’s current youth in the exhibition through their work with Deep Center, a local non-profit organization dedicated to “empowering Savannah’s young people to thrive as learners, community leaders, and agents of change through creative writing, cultural production, and art.”
Through the collaboration, students from Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools were asked to respond to works in the exhibition by writing short responses or poems, which can be viewed in written form or as a spoken presentation on a screen located just outside the exhibition, or by scanning a mobile QR code or visiting the museums’ website.
“Each work has an engaging narrative behind it,” said Dunn.
“Hopefully that’s what the viewers are able to take away from the exhibition, as well as finding a work or an artist that speaks specifically to them.”