“Sixteen” is a group project I am leading with fifteen other photographers all around the UK. The central idea for the project is to give a voice to the next generation and hear them speak to us about their dreams, ambitions, hopes and fears for the future. Within the group, we aim to explore how your upbringing, social background, ethnicity, gender, and location all influence what you think you can achieve in life and how you might fulfill your potential.
The idea for the project came from a series I made about the Scottish Referendum in 2014. It was the first time that sixteen-year-olds were given the right to vote in the UK, and I photographed young people who would celebrate their sixteenth birthday on the day of the referendum: they were the youngest people ever to vote in Great Britain. I was encouraged by how engaged with the process many of the sixteen-year-olds were, but also aware of the weight of responsibility some of them felt. In many ways, it was their future (more than anyone else’s) that was at stake in a decision that had the potential to break apart the 300-year-old union.
Today, it feels like we are at a major crossroads in terms of national and international relations: the rise of populist movements, grass roots activism, much-needed debates about national and global economies, and increasing concerns over climate change, migration, and terrorism are all evidence of this. In this time of great turmoil, “Sixteen” focuses the attention on the next generation: the ones who are going to live longest with the outcomes of decisions we all make.
The pictures in this series were mostly shot in and around Liverpool and North Wales, from a cross-section of society. Images range from young people of the Irish Traveller community to recent refugees from Iran and Syria. In each case, I ask my subjects to write their own testimony—an idea stemming from a desire to work collaboratively with the young people and give them a voice so they can talk directly to the audience without a filter.
My approach—presenting their handwritten texts alongside the photographs—was adapted by the entire group of 15 photographers working on “Sixteen.” But many of them are exploring other methods (audio, video) of giving these young people a voice in addition to the texts.
Photographer’s note: The group of 16 photographers (eight women and eight men, listed below) are working collectively, but still as individual photographers. The aim is to exhibit and publish the work of the whole group over the next couple of years. We are at the early stages of building a network of partners and raising funding, but it is really exciting to be working with friends, colleagues and photographers that I admire.
The photographers in this group are: myself, Simon Roberts, Jillian Edelstein, Lottie Davies, Kalpesh Lathigra, Sophie Gerrard, Kate Peters, Chris Nunn, Antonio Olmos, Stuart Freedman, Michelle Sank, Roy Mehta, Linda Brownlee, Abbie Trayler-Smith, Kate Kirkwood, and one other photographer yet to be determined.
Editors’ Note: Along with Cristina de Middel, Easton was selected as the winner of the first edition of the FCBarcelona Photo Awards.