When you're young, in the midst of your hormonal teenage years, and confined to the limits of your suburban town, everything seems stagnant. With nowhere to go with what seems like nothing to do, boredom and frustration set in, and in that ennui arises an insatiable need to experiment with your sexuality, substances, and different relationships. And in doing so, you find yourself.
In her new photography series, Sarah Bahbah explores how this reality played out in the '90s, before there were digital distractions and social-media apps to occupy your mind. Drawing inspiration from the television medium, Bahbah created a stunning representation of coming-of-age, which you can watch play out on her Instagram account.
We caught up with Bahbah to learn more about the project, which you can preview in the gallery.
What inspired this project?
Two wonderful things: my nostalgia of coming-of-age and foreign films.
It’s been on my mind to use Instagram in a new way for sometime. I kept asking myself, what makes me stop and think, “Yes, this,” when I’m cruising the platform. I quickly became obsessed with screen shots of foreign films that have subtitles overlaying. I loved the notion of having a strong image, complemented by strong copy. I wanted to take it to the next level and create a serial, episodic quasi-narrative. Each individual piece tells a story on its own, but when you bring the body of work together, there is a deeper narrative open to interpretation, leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions based on their own experiences.
How would you characterize the series' protagonist?
Aloof, unapproachable, unpredictable…perfection in the eyes of her surroundings. She has the ability to make anyone fall in love with her, and hate her for being so damn cool and in control at such a young age. They feel privileged to have her attention, even though she continuously brings them down, only to bring them back up again with small doses of affection. She is possessive, and only knows toxic love. This all begins to change as she tastes what it feels like to not be in the driver's seat, the insecurities [are unleashed], and it’s out of her control.
The series does an amazing job of portraying the stagnancy of suburbia and the boredom that its occupants feel, but it seems that there was something else—some major event, maybe—that brought the protagonist to her current mindset. In your vision, is there something specific that happened to her?
The series is open to the viewer as a whole, so it’s important not to give too much away. The key catalyst, though, is being convinced you will always have control, that you can get away with anything, and then the opposite is the result.
Will you explore this in another series?
The quasi nature of this means that I can do another “season” of sorts, and I’m open to that, but who knows what the future holds. ;)
How do you think growing up and coming of age in the '90s differs from growing up today?
There is so much I want to say about this. The obvious first, the presence of technology was only partially existent when in the company of friends and family. We relied on human interaction to express affection, not emojis. Phones used to be supplementary, but now they are mandatory as they have become an extension of who we are, what we are up to, what we enjoy, what we dislike, where we are going, and so forth. It’s like when you’re having an intense conversation with a friend, and you want to show them a point of reference (the profile pic of the cute guy in the office, an email he sent, etc.), so you pull out your phone. It’s missing the imaginative element, the kind where we used to visualise a dreamboat in our minds, and draw them up ourselves, instead of instantly having a photo handed to us on a platter. There is a lack of empathy involved when we interact with each other through a screen, and I think that’s the biggest thing we have lost over the years.
One line that really sticks out is "We both lost our minds. It helps us to connect." What do you hope the series says about the nature of female friendships?
We will always have each other's backs, as long as we still have perspective. We hit the same lows, get lost in the same highs, feel pain the same way, it's only natural; vulnerability and familiarly keep our bonds tights, regardless of the journey.
Summer Without A Pool Credits
Artist/Director/Photographer: Sarah Bahbah
Models: Claire Lauren of Vivien's Model Management; Naomi Peggy of Scene Model Management
Clothing: Oh Henry Vintage
Makeup: Jacqui Bradfield