Connection is a choice

Unexpectedly, over the past year a teenage Nordic girl has become the spokesperson for an international protest against widespread heel-dragging and outright denial in the face of catastrophic global warming. So it seems appropriate that, at such a moment, the theme of this exhibition should ask the young Nordic photographers represented in this project to look for ways to manifest in visual imagery the urgent issues of voice and choice.

One might anticipate a collective response emphasizing documentary and reportage, a concentration on social and political issues, yet that emerges as a minor aspect of this project, evident only in one image of someone staring at an abandoned, decrepit industrial building defaced or, one might argue, beautified by graffiti.

Instead, these interpretations of the project’s premise fall into two broad categories. The first insists, reverently, on the enduring splendor of the natural world, seen sometimes in macrocosm (a bird with its catch in its beak, trees seen from the perspective of someone lying on his back in a forest, a worm’s-eye view of a mushroom dressed in frost) but also in the reflected image of a sunny day outdoors and a sunrise glimpsed through a chain-link fence.

The second offers an ominous, angry, even threatening alternative: a water-soaked, abandoned teenager’s cap; a dark, ambiguous lakeside ritual; a girl in full Goth regalia with a knife between her teeth; a terrified older woman on her knees in an ice-skating rink; a figure in a hood and skeleton mask backlit by glaring neon; a sardonic self-portrait in front of a shattered glass window; a trash bin in which a discarded crucifix and the packaging for a sharpening stone lie side by insistent roiled

Notable by its absence: Any sense of community, of the social context, of any form of shared engagement beyond the private, affectional relationship with a pet. Solitude, and, beyond that, isolation and loneliness pervade the urban spaces pictured here, whether that’s a high-tech metro station or the underpass to an apartment complex.

If this cross-section of images by young photographers in any way takes the pulse of their generation, it suggests that they feel disconnected from their own society, less than fully confident in and at ease with the situation in which they find themselves sensing something unspecified but not benevolent that impinges not just on their future but on their immediate present, the world they inhabit now and whose care and preservation they will inherit shortly.

Based in New York, A. D. Coleman currently celebrates his 52nd year as a critic, historian, and theorist of photography and photo-based art. His blog, Photocritic International, appears online at

© Copyright 2020 by A. D. Coleman. All rights reserved. By permission of the author and Image/World Syndication Services, [email protected].