Cruel Story of Youth
Project info

Grounded in the ideals of a counter-cultural past and freed from the forced constraints of a conventional camp experience, these photographs explore a society of teenagers empowered through otherwise impossible freedoms.

Nestled in the mountains of Massachusetts is Rowe Camp, a summer utopia self-governed by teens. In the real world, the campers are too young to vote, but here they're allowed to give strong opinions about the way they live. It's a glimpse into what life might be like if no ideas were too absurd and eccentricity was the rule, not the exception. My own summers spent at Rowe were both a culture shock and nothing short of paradise. Years after my initiation, I returned to photograph the rituals and intricacies of this unusual community.

For the first time in their young lives, the looming presence of adults becomes almost non-existent. They are given the opportunity to define their relationships and daily behaviors without the smothering influence of typical social expectations.

This series explores my personal reconciliation with the slowly fading memories that once had an indelible impact on my path to adulthood. I spent several weeks living with and documenting the emotional landscape of Rowe's current inhabitants as part alumnus, part outsider. Connecting with my subjects through a shared history afforded me the trust necessary to be able to watch events unfold without censorship. Drawing from my own self-discovery within this same space, I focused on conveying the spontaneity and supportive atmosphere that is the foundation and legacy of Rowe.

The series' title (named after Nagisa Oshima's landmark Japanese New Wave film) refers not to the camp population, but to the life they must return to after tasting true independence for a fleeting moment.