Justine Kurland displays on Lady Footage

Between 1997 and 2002, Justine Kurland traveled through the North American wilderness and captured teenage girls in a series of staged images that express freedom and a new kind of utopia. Here she looks back on the importance of the project

“The girls were a replacement for me, from a time before I made certain decisions and took responsibility. It is a time when everything is still possible and obstinacy is a form of rebellion and even freedom, ”explains photographer Justine Kurland, why in her now legendary Girl Pictures series she focused on young women and teenage girls.

The work, which was mainly produced on the go between 1997 and 2002, has just been published in a new book by Aperture. The power in Kurland's pictures lies 20 years later in the blurring of perfect and real. The series shows seemingly honest shots of teenage girls who hike, play, and live off-grid in rural America and together form an almost lawless and empowered community. The book publishes the entire series in full, including newly discovered and unpublished pictures, and although it looks like Kurland is destined to create a work, it started almost by accident.

“I was with a man in the summer between my two school years. His daughter had been sent to him because she was in minor trouble. The man had air conditioning and I didn't, so I spent my days with his daughter while he was at work, ”says Kurland CR. “We shared the fantasy of escaping, taking off and getting out. So we staged it … Her name is Alyssum. We started with more conventional, out of control photos around the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Times Square. But the only surviving picture shows her in a cherry tree on the West Side Highway. It's in the book. "

Candy Toss, 2000. All pictures from Girl Pictures (Aperture, 2020) © Justine Kurland