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Adolescence is Complicated, Even in Paradise

Over three months during the winter of 2015, photographer Debra Friedman made portraits of Bermuda’s teenagers. Friedman, who is based in Toronto, sought Bermuda schools, clubs, army recruit camps, churches, fast food joints, sports fields, and parishes, making portraits of young people “in all their contradictory glory – awkward and brave, shy and bold – against a backdrop that would strike any non-Bermudian as a slice of paradise,” states the press release.

But even in paradise, adolescence is complicated. In Portraits of Teenage Bermuda: Coming of Age in Wonderland (Daylight Books, February 15, 2018), “we see teenagers simultaneously wedded to the tyranny of cool and rebelling against it, trying to disappear into the sameness of belonging, while also standing out as unique,” the press release explains.

Teenagers growing up there are “intensely local” and at the same time, drawn to the lure of “everywhere-but-here,” the dream of expanding their horizons.

In the book’s afterword, Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks, the former premier of Bermuda writes, “Our children come by contradictions honestly: their home is one of them. Bermuda is open and mysterious at once, an island that’s also an invisible mountain, a mile-high mountain that happens to be mostly under water. Is there a more apt metaphor for adolescence? Open and mysterious at once, with more of its depth hidden than revealed?”

Other texts in the book include a rhythmic short piece by Bermuda spoken word artist Yesha Townsend and an essay by Tom Butterfield, the founder and executive director of the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, an artist-in-residence program in which Friedman took part.

Friedman is an internationally exhibited photographer and an educator. She has a BFA from the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and an MFA from the Chicago Arts Institute. She is the recipient of numerous visual arts awards.

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