Michelle Sank, "Untitled (1)", from "Young Carers", 2004, C-print

Michelle Sank, “Untitled (1)”, from “Young Carers”, 2004, C-print

Michelle Sank

These images deal with the notion of developing adulthood in society today. This volatile stage of life has long been recognized as a critical time of conflict and turmoil. Both boys and girls have to redefine themselves, as they move from childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood. Their interactions with the world around them in the purely physical sense, as well as in the social and psychological, continue to interest me.

It is almost as if certain children bear the imprint of their adulthood. Fashion, body image, and the first stirrings of narcissism are explored, reflecting the status quo as set out in popular culture and the media. Following from this, body language itself is observed, where the developing characteristics of male and female behavior are examined. Some of the subjects interaction with the camera reflect the physical and emotional awkwardness or tension that can be experienced in this period of growth.

In addition, I have made work about children under the age of 18 who are often the main care-givers for a sick parent or sibling. Besides performing daily household tasks like washing, bathing, cooking and shopping, they also have to cope with the additional pressure of school. Because they are different, they are often exposed to bullying from schoolmates and as a result lack a sense of identity as an individual in their own right. With these portraits, I want to empower these young people with a sense of their own identity and normality. I wanted to remove them from their home environment and place them within “light” and outside spaces. By getting them to be themselves and dress in something they chose, I think for that moment in time they felt special, grounded, and free.

Michelle Sank’s work is represented by the Photographers Gallery in London and the Benham Gallery in Seattle. She has had solo shows in England at the at the Phoenix Arts Center and the Image Gallery, as well at the Houston Center for Photography, the Kakenhallen Gallery in Finnland, and Centro d’Imagen in Mexico City. Group shows include those at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Castle Gallery in Cape Town, Stilwerk in Berlin, the Northwest Center for Photography in Seattle, the Hirschl Gallery in London, and the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney. Her photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and Allan Servais in Brussells. Sank earned the 2002 and 2004 South West Visual Arts Award and has participated in residencies in Wales and Belfast. Her work has appeared in British Journal of Photography, PhotoReview, Next Level UK, and Fotofile Magazine.