YOUNG PEOPLE’S PHOTOGRAPHS OF THEIR LIVING ENVIRONMENTS
ABSTRACT (POST-DOC PROJECT 2012-2014)
The purpose of my research is to analyse the meaning of place in young people’s photographs of their living surroundings. The aim is to find out how young people interpret the social changes, cultural diversity, and gendered meanings that are attached to their everyday experiences and living surroundings. The research data has been produced during 2013, and it consists of 250 photographs: over a period of one month, 16 young people aged 16-29 photographed their living environments in Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia and Russia. Young people in this age group are crucial when researching the theme of place. They are located at the intersection of social changes and it is anticipated that regional differences, as well as generational and gender divisions, will become important factors in shaping well-being. The project also has the practical purpose of empowering young people, strengthening their social agency, and making their living situations recognizable to wider audiences. The utility of the study lies in its interdisciplinary and international objectives. The research focuses on issues that offer an interdisciplinary nexus for art and design studies, gender studies, and human geography: first, the empowering process of art-making; second, the meanings of the material places of young people; and third, the gendering processes related on certain places and photographs.
The young people’s photographs demonstrate how changing social, political and economic contexts have resulted in perceptions of gender, place and young residents in different countries. Changes in societies can also be theorized using the term “social sustainability” that refers to a community’s ability to reproduce itself and maintain social integration and cohesion. Social sustainability in this research is connected to opening up positive future images, strengthening young people’s agency, and making empowering processes possible.
The empirical research questions are: How do young people visualise and construct their living surroundings? What is their agency in their local worlds and art-making processes? What kinds of gendering processes are involved in their living surroundings and photographs?
The study is funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the University of Lapland.
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