1 / 3       March, 2015. Vicenzo has earache and a temperature, and Stacy had to take him from the child care center to see the doctor. They live in the Dahlia residence for mothers and children, in Hellemmes. © Viviane Dalles. Winner of the 2014 Canon Female Photojournalist Award, supported by Elle Magazine.
2 / 3       January 2015. Laurine (17) and her son Thiméo (4 months). They live with Laurine’s father in Fourmies. © Viviane Dalles. Winner of the 2014 Canon Female Photojournalist Award, supported by Elle Magazine.
3 / 3       During the visit to the exhibition Teenage Mothers by Viviane Dalles. © Stefania Biamonti/FPmag.

Teenage Mothers

Four sections for four stories, is how the exhibition of Viviane Dalles – staged at Hôtel Pams in Perpignan – is presented. The protagonists are four teenage girls, or a little over: Amélie (15 years), Laurine (17 years), Stacy (18 years) and Melissa (22 years). French girls, like many others, all from the region of Nord-Pas-des-Calais. But it is not only the geographical area of origin that they have in common. Amélie, Laurine, Stacy and Melissa are in fact all young mothers.
Through their stories and their different walks of being teenage mothers, the French photographer tries to outline the contours of a complex phenomenon, the result of a choice that, in France as in the rest of Europe, now seems to go against the flow. The average age for a woman to become a mother in fact is now certified around their 30s; to decide to continue a pregnancy at a young age, most often unwanted, therefore implies a series of issues that do not refer only to the intimacy and family. While often it means giving up their studies, having to look for a job other than what they had imagined, take on enormous responsibilities and share them with a partner (when there is one) more often than not in the same condition, the other means colliding with a society often unprepared to respond to the real needs of these very young mothers. And it is on this last point that the inquiry on a local perspective by Viviane Dalles is focused. Nord-Pas-des-Calais is in fact the French region with the highest number of teenage mothers. The author, scattering the textual apparatus with data, attempts however to bring out above all the efforts of the local community to remedy these shortcomings, with assistance and support centres for young mothers, awareness campaigns and sex education. The picture that emerges is altogether comforting, so as to appear in only a few steps laudatory praise for the ability of French institutions to respond to delicate social problems.
A job well done on the whole – if you exclude some digression from The Family of Man by Steichen on the beauty of being a mother – which earned the author the Canon Female Photojournalist Award 2014 supported by Elle Magazine. A doubt remains at the end of the exhibition: the creeping feeling of excess... pink in the face of a situation that probably brings more ups and downs and upsets than emerges from the project. A feeling, that is supported by the look in the eyes of the girls filmed, often poorly adherent to the statements made by them given in the caption and the general tone of the work. [ S. B. ]

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TEENAGE MOTHERS
by Viviane Dalles
Hôtel Pams | until September, 13th 2015
admission fee: free

published on 2015-09-04 in NEWS / EXHIBITIONS

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