Rites of passage

Dangerous rock jumps, exhilarating rope swings and exploring secret places have long been popular rites of passage for adolescents on the verge of adulthood.

Photographer Tamara Dean finds this innate connection to nature an interesting juxtaposition in the hard-wired technologically-dependent lives of young people.

Her exhibition Force of Nature draws together works from two of her previous series, The Edge and Instinctual linking nature and humanity.

REFLECTIVE: Photographer Tamara Dean reflects on rites of passage linked with nature in her photo Ebenezer Rock Drop, 2013, part of her BIFB exhibition Force of Nature at The Lost Ones gallery. Picture: Kate Healy

REFLECTIVE: Photographer Tamara Dean reflects on rites of passage linked with nature in her photo Ebenezer Rock Drop, 2013, part of her BIFB exhibition Force of Nature at The Lost Ones gallery. Picture: Kate Healy

“Much of my practice has been exploring the relationship humans have with nature in this contemporary life we lead,” Ms Dean said.

“I’ve explored the rites of passage that young people make for themselves in nature, things like rock jumps and rope swings.

“I see those things as something that people seek out instinctually and place a value on as an important rite of passage in a life that’s very tech-laden.”

Exhibiting her work at The Lost Ones gallery as part of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Ms Dean said these rites of passage seem more common among country adolescents than their city cousins.

“When I talk to people about their experience of growing up outside bit cities where you are close to the country, there always seems to be a story about the rock that people jump off or the secret place that people know and go to as they find their independence as teens,” she said.

“And when people look at my photos a lot ask if it was shot at the end of their street or in an area near them. These places have a sense of nostalgia about them and the people who have had those places in their lives remember that time and how pivotal that was in their growing up.”

Other works in the exhibition relate the human figure to the animal world.

Instinctual was trying to relate human figures to make a visual link to us being animals. Rather than people dressing up it’s more for instance in Shoaling there are a number of bodies in the water that give a sense that you are looking at a school of fish, so it relates us humans to the familiar kind of way that we see animals in our environment,” she said.

And in showing that rites of passage are similar no matter where you are in the world, some of the pictures were shot in upstate New York in the US, and some on the western outskirts of Sydney. Regardless of the actual location of the shot, all seem familiar or nostalgic for viewers who often ask if it was shot at the special place they remember from their youth.

Force of Nature is one of more than 90 fringe exhibitions on display as part of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, which runs until September 17.

This story The lengths teens go to for independence first appeared on The Courier.