The Youngest Parents (1992–1996):
I began photographing teen mothers in 1990. I was interested in exploring how these girls negotiated their way through adolescence, developing unique identities while adjusting to the strains of maternal responsibility. Eventually I expanded my work to include the fathers of the children as well. What I discovered over my five-odd years of photographing young families is that teenage pregnancy is a complicated phenomenon. It develops from many layers of influence and need, and there are no simple relationships between its causes and effects. Teenage pregnancy and parenthood are filled with contradictions: there is childlike optimism confronting adult responsibility; there is tremendous love joined with personal sacrifice; there is unrestrained anger and quiet acquiescence; there is healthy nurturing—and unhealthy nurturing, when the young mother looks to her child for the love she might expect from a parent.
Naturally it is through the lens of my own life that I saw these girls and their families. I can never fully understand the experience of early motherhood, or attempt to document it in its entirety. It is a complex phenomenon, as varied and unpredictable as the personalities of the girls themselves. At best my photographs can serve as particular frames through which to view young mothers and their families. And it is from the position of both admiration for each girl’s love for her child, and hope for her own future, that I made these images.
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